Buckeyes again get the best of the Gophers

Dan Miller

There was no doubt that Ohio State would have a lot to say in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals Saturday.

But the Buckeyes made a louder-than-expected statement by beating Minnesota’s men’s tennis team 4-0 in East Lansing, Mich.

The 35th-ranked Gophers (14-9, 8-2 Big Ten) had beaten the 20th-ranked Buckeyes in the tournament the last two years.

“We’re used to playing on Sunday in the championship,” Minnesota coach David Geatz said. “We give them a lot of credit, they played really well. It is disappointing for our guys.”

The third-seeded Gophers advanced to the championship match last season but have not won the tournament since 1995.

Illinois defeated Ohio State on Sunday for its third-straight conference championship.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a lead on the Gophers by taking two of the three doubles matches for the first point.

At No. 1 doubles, the Buckeyes’ 32nd-ranked doubles duo of Jeremy Wurtzman and Joey Atas edged Minnesota’s Chris Wettengel and Andres Osorio, 8-6.

The Buckeyes’ Scott Green and Ross Wilson were able to clinch the point by narrowly defeating Minnesota’s duo of seniors Clay Estes and Aleksey Zharinov, 9-8 (3).

In 23 duals this season, Minnesota has won the doubles point only nine times.

The Buckeyes proceeded to win three quick singles matches to secure the 4-0 victory and advance to the championship.

Zharinov, who is ranked 56th, had his shot at fourth-ranked Wurtzman at No. 1 singles, but was beaten 6-4, 6-0. Zharinov is now 12-7 on the season.

Atas, Ohio State’s Big Ten freshman of the year, beat Minnesota senior Avery Ticer handily 6-1, 6-2 at No. 3 singles. The action was Ticer’s first singles match since returning from a foot injury that sidelined him for almost three weeks.

The match was decided after Estes was downed at No. 5. Wilson beat Estes 6-4, 6-2 to drop him to 9-7 this spring.

“They outplayed us in every aspect of the game,” Ticer said. “It’s disappointing to pack your bags on Saturday instead of preparing for the championship match.”

Geatz said he questioned whether to play Ticer and Osorio in the match. He said Ticer was limping after the match and Osorio couldn’t use his backhand because of a lingering wrist injury.

“There was too much pain,” Osorio said of only being able to use his forehand in his match. “It will be great to have a break.”

The Gophers will have two weeks to let their bodies and minds rest as they await the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships. Seeding for the 64 teams will be announced between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday. The championships take place May 14-16 and 20-29.

Ticer and the Gophers see the break as a godsend.

“A lot of our guys are mentally fatigued as well as physically,” he said. “It will be nice to recharge the batteries before the NCAA Tournament.”

Minnesota 4, Indiana 3

The Gophers escaped a feisty Indiana team Friday, coming away with a 4-3 victory.

The match was tied 3-3 as Minnesota’s Dusan Tabak battled David Bubenicek in a three-set marathon. After dropping the first set 2-6, Tabak battled back to take the next two 6-3, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Indiana gave the Gophers all they could handle by capturing the doubles point and pushing three singles matches to three sets.

All-Conference

Zharinov and Wettengel were both named to the All-Big Ten team Friday.

Zharinov, who has been named twice to the team, is one of four repeat winners this year. He was on a five-match winning streak going into the tournament this weekend.

Wettengel, a unanimous selection, has a team-best 26-8 record playing at the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 singles spots. He is a first-time member of the all-conference team.

Minnesota has now sent at least two players to the team each of the last three years.