Wisconsin offers men, women a sneak peek of Big Ten play

Both teams will start the bulk of their conference schedule in late March.

by Dane Mizutani

The Gophers men’s and women’s tennis teams will get a sneak peek of the Big Ten this weekend in the form of rival Wisconsin.

Both teams will start the bulk of their conference schedule in late March.

Women’s coach Chuck Merzbacher said Sunday’s match will serve as a measuring stick.

It’ll be the second week in a row that the women will be able to sleep in their own beds before the match. The Gophers had a brutal road stretch early in the season.

“It was tough,” Merzbacher said of the road stretch. “It was three weekends in a row, six matches on the road, but they grinded it out, and they hung in there.”

Merzbacher said a big focus this week in practice has been in the doubles realm.

Minnesota earned the doubles point in both matches last week, but it has otherwise struggled in doubles this season.

“It’s starting to come around for us,” he said. “We just need to make better decisions, and if we do that we’re going to be a good team.”

Merzbacher said he might make a few changes on the doubles side with freshman Paula Rincon Otero in the lineup. He said Rincon Otero could start this weekend.

Minnesota will return to nearly full strength for one of the first times this season, which gives the team more lineup options. Junior Natallia Pintusava, the team’s regular No. 1 singles player, was limited last weekend with a cold, but she’s back this week.

Merzbacher said senior Alexa Palen is still “a ways away” from a return as she recovers from mononucleosis. Merzbacher said he hopes to get her back in the lineup by late March.