Both tennis teams look to clear up conference picture

Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota women’s tennis team will end its regular season in the confines of the Baseline Tennis Center this weekend battling two conference opponents and ultimately determining its postseason fate.

The 56th-ranked Gophers (10-9 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) will have a chance to finish .500 in the conference, raise their Big Ten Championship stock and keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive as they face off against No. 50 Purdue (11-7, 4-4) on Saturday and unranked Illinois (5-14, 1-7) on Sunday.

Junior Lindsay Risebrough, who has battled back from elbow and shoulder injuries to become a mainstay in the starting lineup this season, said the upcoming weekend is vital heading into the postseason.

“I know we’re capable of 5-5 (conference record). We’ll be right on the NCAA line if we do,” she said. “It’s hard to compete in a tough conference like the Big Ten and qualify.”

Aside from NCAA tournament aspirations, the weekend offers Minnesota a chance to improve its seeding for the Big Ten Championship, beginning Thursday at the Baseline Tennis Center.

The Gophers sit in the seventh position in the conference. Depending on this weekend’s matches, Minnesota could find itself as high as the No. 6 seed or as low as the No. 9 seed.

Coach Tyler Thomson said the team is at its healthiest of the season and is excited for the chance to build momentum heading into next week’s championship.

“I think we’re playing our best tennis of the season right now, and this is the time of the year you want to be doing so,” he said. “We know the impact of this weekend and we’re up for it.”

Sophomore Karina Chiarelli, who has anchored the No. 5 singles spot for much of the year, said the team has faced much adversity throughout the regular season and is looking to end it on a high note.

“It’s been a tough year in many ways, but this team feeds off each other, from those who are playing and those sitting out,” she said. “Right now we just want to finish strong and carry it over into the Big Tens.”

Men’s team hits road

The men’s tennis team will face two conference opponents on the opposite ends of the Big Ten spectrum this weekend.

The No. 34 Gophers (14-7 overall, 4-4 Big Ten) hit the road to face No. 11 Illinois (14-7, 6-2) on Saturday before facing conference bottom feeder Purdue (8-11, 1-7) on Sunday.

Minnesota appears to be in good shape heading into the Big Ten Championship and looking toward the NCAA tournament three weeks from now.

The Gophers sit sixth in the conference, but dependant upon this weekend’s results, they’ll have a chance to grab a seed as high as No. 3 along with improving their NCAA credentials.

Junior Raoul Schwark, ranked No. 84 in the nation at singles, said the weekend offers Minnesota a chance to put itself in good postseason position.

“Illinois is obviously a tough challenge, but we should be able to come away with at least one win this weekend,” he said. “That should put us in a good spot for the Big Ten Championship.”