Minnesota opens Big Tens vs. Penn State

The Gophers will play the Nittany Lions in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Zach Eisendrath

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team is getting exactly what it said it wanted – a rematch with Penn State.

After the Gophers’ (5-17, 2-8 Big Ten) 7-0 loss to Purdue on Sunday, Minnesota’s coaching staff and players quickly turned their attention to the Big Ten Tournament and the possibility of a rematch with the Nittany Lions.

“I know that our team would be chomping at the bit to have another shot at them,” coach Tyler Thomson said after Sunday’s Big Ten regular-season finale.

And when Michigan State downed Penn State (8-12, 2-8 Big Ten) to end the Lions’ regular season, the Gophers got their wish. The Lions fell to the No. 8 seed for today’s first-round matchup – pitting themselves against the ninth-seeded Gophers.

The dual starts at 10 a.m. in Champaign, Ill. The winner will advance to play No.1-seeded Northwestern on Friday.

“Our first goal is to make it to the second round,” Thomson said, “which we haven’t done for a couple years. If we can do that, we’ll see where the next day takes us.”

When Minnesota and Penn State last met April 16 in State College, Pa., the Gophers went 1-2 in doubles and 2-4 in singles on their way to a 5-2 loss.

On that day it was the middle of Minnesota’s lineup that had trouble producing. Senior Nischela Reddy had little trouble with Sasha Abraham at No.1 singles and Marina Bugaenco knocked off Leyla Morzan at six singles, but the Gophers went winless at the two through five spots.

The bottom of Minnesota’s doubles lineup struggled as well. Katelyn Bevard and Lauren Holzberg made quick work of sophomore Danielle Mousseau and freshman Mariana Spilca, 8-2. And after Reddy and No. 1 doubles partner Ida Malmberg came away with an 8-5 win over Abraham and Jenny Shular, Dorthy Dohanics and Morzan defeated sophomore Jane Anderson and Bugaenco 8-5 at three doubles to snag the all-important doubles point.

But sophomore Mousseau said playing a team Minnesota hasn’t beaten gives the team extra motivation.

“I think we have a good chance to beat them,” Mosseau said. “I’d rather play a team we haven’t beaten, so if we beat them it will be sweeter.”

Part of the reason the Gophers – who only have two conference wins – believe they have a legitimate chance at advancing to tournament’s second day of action is because of the odd landscape of the conference standings. The Lions and Minnesota share identical conference marks with Illinois and Wisconsin at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.

“There is not a lot of parody in the Big Ten this year, quite frankly,” Thomson said.

“We always battle with them. In the past year we won twice and lost once, so it (will) be an exciting first round.”

Thomson said it will be difficult for anybody to knock off ninth-ranked Northwestern (17-4, 10-0) but that all the lower-seeded teams have a chance to move on at least to the second round.

Reddy, who will be playing in her final matches as a Gopher, echoed her coach’s remarks.

“I think it’s pretty wide open besides for the top five or six spots,” Reddy said. “I think we have a very good shot going into the Big Tens because a lot of teams are in a similar position.”