Gophers tennis teams lose in Big Ten tournament; Merzbacher coaches final dual

Chuck Merzbacher announced his intention to retire at the end of the season earlier this month.

Freshman Tina Kreinis returns the ball during the match against Ohio State on Friday, April 14, 2017.

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Freshman Tina Kreinis returns the ball during the match against Ohio State on Friday, April 14, 2017.

Drew Cove

When the women’s tennis team fell behind 3-0, it looked like head coach Chuck Merzbacher would end his career with a blowout loss.

But the team tied it up at 3-3, only to fall in the dual’s final match of the day.

The women’s team lost 4-3 on Thursday against Nebraska, while the men won Thursday versus Indiana 4-2, but lost at the hands of Ohio State 4-0 on Friday.

“They just fought so hard,” said head coach Chuck Merzbacher. “We battled back down 3-0, but we were in charge of three other [matches] … so really only a couple of games from getting the match clinched.”

The Gophers’ loss marked the last game coached for Merzbacher, as he announced his intention to retire at the end of the season earlier this month.

Minnesota needed a victory to advance in the conference tournament, but they just weren’t able to fight through Nebraska’s game all the way to the fourth and clinching point.

The loss also brings about the end of a college career for one Gophers player as well, senior Maja Vujic.

She played Thursday in her last collegiate match, and ended up falling in the third singles spot.

“We’ve been in battles like that before,” Vujic said. “It’s better to go down fighting hard.”

The Gophers finished with junior Caroline Ryba, freshman Tina Kreinis and sophomore Caitlyn Merzbacher getting points in their singles matches, while down 3-0 at the time, and it came down to Vujic, who got her match to a third set, but fell 6-1.

Nebraska, ranked No. 9 in the tournament, took the doubles point with a 2-1 advantage in the matches.

No. 8 Minnesota was able to tie it briefly, and still fell, but that means the team’s focus can now transition to next season.

Although Merzbacher retired and Vujic is graduating, much of the rest of the Gophers stay intact.

“We had three kids with over 20 wins,” Merzbacher said. “I think they were forced to step up when they did, so I’m really encouraged.”

The men’s team prolonged their conference tournament appearance with a victory against Indiana 4-2 Thursday, but ended with the same fate as the women on Friday, this time losing 4-0 to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Minnesota faced Indiana just four days prior to their meeting Thursday, which resulted in a tense 4-3 Minnesota victory.

The opening match of the Gophers Big Ten Tournament campaign ended 4-2, with Minnesota winning the doubles point and the third, fifth and sixth singles points.

Giving themselves a solid start, Minnesota took the doubles point by two matches to one.

With the victory, the Gophers moved on to face another tough opponent, this time No. 2 Ohio State.

A prominent thorn in the side of the Gophers was the No. 2 overall singles player in Mikael Torpegaard, who beat Minnesota’s junior Felix Corwin in two sets for the first singles point. Torpegaard also defeated junior Matic Spec earlier in the year.

The Gophers had a similar fate two weeks prior to the match against Ohio State, losing 6-1 in mid-April.

No. 38 Minnesota lost the doubles point, and the first three singles matches, giving them an early exit from the Big Ten tournament.

The men’s team still has a shot at making the NCAA tournament, but it is still uncertain if they are going to make the trip.