Gophers make good on Geatz’s promise, beat Purdue

Aaron Kirscht

Don’t expect to hear stories of Gophers men’s tennis coach David Geatz whooping it up at the Bierman building in celebration of his team’s third-place finish in the Big Ten tournament.
The Gophers have become too accustomed to finishing first, and for the second straight year, the space reserved for another championship banner will be left bare.
Nevertheless, he’ll take third with one condition: that it gives his team a shot at another trip to the NCAA regional tournament.
“Let’s put it this way,” Geatz said. “We had a very bad year with a good Big Ten tournament. We didn’t do as well as we could have in the regular season, and that’s my fault, too, for overestimating how good we would be.”
Geatz all but guaranteed a quarterfinal upset of second-seeded Purdue on Friday, and the Gophers delivered, beating the Boilermakers 4-2. It was the first time a No. 7 seed beat a No. 2 in the history of the tournament, but Geatz said, for him, the win was no surprise.
“We were better than that team,” he said. “They were No. 2 and had an 8-2 record going in, and they deserved it, but we were just better.
“We should have beaten them. I would have bet anything we would have won that match.”
Purdue, playing at home, beat the Gophers 4-3 only a week ago.
Two pivotal matchups in that meeting were at Nos. 1 and 6 singles. At No. 1, Minnesota’s Lars Hjarrand fell to Purdue’s Jamie Gordon 6-3, 7-6 the first time, but he responded on Friday with a tight 7-5, 7-5 win. The Gophers’ Martin Kristoffersen lost a three-setter to Bryan Harris in the April 19 match, but Geatz’s switch to Robin Rutili at No. 6 paid off with a 6-2, 6-3 win.
The same lineup didn’t pan out against eventual champion Illinois, however, even though Geatz called his team’s performance “the best match we played all year long, when we had to play it.”
Illinois beat Minnesota 5-1 in the regular season finale. After that match, Geatz said he considered the Illini the class of the conference, even though Northwestern (10-0) and Purdue (8-2) sat atop the Big Ten.
“I look back on the teams we won the Big Ten with five times, and that Illinois team compares with any of the teams we had,” he said. “They are a good, good team.”
The Illini ended the Gophers’ run of four straight Big Ten titles in the semifinals last season. But as it did last season, Minnesota bounced back to secure third place, this time with a 4-0 sweep of Indiana.
And now, the Gophers’ attention will turn to the NCAAs. Typically, four Big Ten teams make the field. Last season, as the last team to make it into the field, Minnesota won the Region IV tournament and advanced to tennis’ Sweet 16.
“I would say our chances weren’t worth a darn before the (Big Ten) tournament,” Geatz said. “Now I’d say, we should get in.
“We’re definitely one of the top three teams in the Big Ten.”