Makeshift lineups struggle to 1-2

The Gophers lost to Wisconsin and Northwestern before beating No. 30 Rice.

by Bob Wothe

The top player on Minnesota’s men’s tennis team was the last hope the Gophers had to salvage an otherwise forgettable weekend.

With both teams and many fans lining the court, senior Avery Ticer broke the serve and the heart of his opponent, Rice’s 25th-ranked Robert Searle, to give Minnesota a 4-3 upset win in nonconference play Sunday.

“For Avery to come back from down a set and a break was pretty incredible,” interim coach David Wheaton said. “Being our top player, he sets the example for the team, and he did a great job of that today.”

But Ticer’s comeback, in which he fought off two Searle match points in the second set, only slightly made up for the first two duals of the weekend.

No. 57 Minnesota (6-10, 3-3 Big Ten) lost 4-3 on Saturday to Northwestern, and 7-0 on Friday to Wisconsin before beating the 30th-ranked Owls.

In both cases, the Gophers were missing nearly half of their starting lineup. But that dearth of talent didn’t excuse the team’s lack of effort, Wheaton said.

“We all practice together,” Wheaton said. “For no apparent reason, we didn’t come out to play, and we went away in the second set of most matches. That’s simply unacceptable, and I told the team that.”

On Friday against the Badgers (7-10, 1-6), the Gophers were without Ticer because of a sore knee and were missing usual No. 2 player Nic Edlefsen.

In addition, Andres Osorio missed the weekend duals because of reasons related to the ongoing NCAA investigation into the tennis program, Wheaton said.

“We were missing three of our top six guys against Wisconsin and two of our top six against Northwestern,” sophomore Sion Wilkins said. “But that doesn’t excuse our poor effort against Wisconsin on Friday.”

With Ticer and Edlefsen back for Saturday’s match, so too came the effort. But Saturday against the Wildcats (8-10, 3-3), Minnesota was without the services of usual No. 3 Adrien Debreyne, who has battled shoulder problems off and on throughout the season.

Wheaton said the dual against Northwestern, though a loss, gave the Gophers momentum coming into Sunday’s dual.

“We rebounded from Friday very well,” Wheaton said. “There were no negatives in Saturday’s match, and I think we really built on that coming into (Sunday).”

And when Ticer put the finishing touches on his inspired comeback, Wheaton was vindicated.

But while it was a happy ending to a difficult weekend, most of the team was not pleased.

“It’s frustrating for us to lose to teams that we think we’re better than,” sophomore Mikey Kantar said. “But that’s how our whole season has been. Outside distractions beyond our control have really affected us.”

Women lose two duals

Minnesota women’s tennis freshman Jane Anderson was perfect Saturday, but the Gophers (5-11, 0-6) dropped every other match as they fell to No. 33 Wisconsin (12-5, 4-2). When her perfection ended, things got worse.

Anderson beat Wisconsin’s Lindsay Martin 6-2, 6-0 at No. 3 singles after winning her No. 2 doubles match with Ida Malmberg 8-6.

But her strong weekend ended Sunday at the hands of No. 2 Northwestern (17-2, 7-0), as she and the rest of the Gophers were swept 7-0.

The Wildcats, who have two top-20 players on their roster, only stumbled at No. 2 doubles and No. 5 singles, where they won in tiebreakers.