Windy conditions only challenge for men’s tennis

by Aaron Blake

Minnesota men’s tennis senior Manuel Lievano might have cursed the wind loud enough for all to hear, but he and his teammates had nothing to complain about following the contest.

“It was unexpectedly windy,” Gophers junior Aleksey Zharinov said. “We’ve been practicing outside all week. It seemed fine until today, when it got kind of rough.”

Despite their gusty foe, the 11th-ranked Gophers (17-3, 7-1 Big Ten) were able to breeze by No. 37 Indiana (11-8, 3-5) 7-0 on the Baseline Tennis Center’s outdoor courts Sunday to maintain their current eight-match winning streak.

Winning at least six of the seven points in all eight duals, Minnesota’s lineup has won 46 of 48 possible singles matches.

The Gophers have a pair of matches next weekend before the Big Ten championships in Evanston, Ill., from April 24-27. Saturday’s match at No. 24 Ohio State pits the Big Ten’s second-place contenders against one another in an opportunity for Minnesota to gauge its status versus a top-25 opponent.

“The Big Ten Championships and NCAAs will be outdoors,” Minnesota coach David Geatz said. “So I guess we might be a better indoor team, but at this point in the year to be a better outdoor team would be more helpful for us.”

Seniors Thomas Haug and Lievano teamed for an unusual No. 1 pair during the doubles portion of competition. The two disposed of Indiana’s Zach Held and Viktor Libal 8-5 in their final home doubles match.

Minnesota’s Avery Ticer and Clay Estes defeated Ryan Recht and John Stone 8-5 at No. 2 doubles to clinch the doubles point for the Gophers. The Hoosiers won their sole match of the day with Petr Novotny’s and Jakub Praibis’s 8-6 No. 3 doubles victory over Eric Robertson and Chris Wettengel.

Every Gopher won his singles match in straight sets except for the 68th-ranked Haug, who has been battling a plethora of injuries. Haug lost the initial set to 99th-ranked Praibis, but rallied to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 at No. 1 singles.

The 66th-ranked Zharinov beat Libal at No. 2 singles 6-3, 6-4, and 84th-ranked Wettengel made quick work of Held 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3.

Lievano defeated Novotny 7-5, 6-1 in No. 4 singles action. Ticer downed Recht 6-2, 6-4 at No. 5, and Estes beat out Tom Bagnato 6-1, 6-1 at No. 6.

Women blank Indiana

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team also knocked off Indiana 7-0 Sunday in Bloomington, Ind.

The 27th-ranked Gophers (14-5, 7-1) continued the stellar play which pushed them to first place in the Big Ten last weekend. With a pair of wins this weekend at home versus Ohio State and Penn State, Minnesota can win a Big Ten championship just a year after finishing the conference season 1-9.

“We just needed to keep the good vibes going for when we go home next weekend and try to win the Big Ten,” Gophers coach Tyler Thomson said. “If we would have entered this match with the wrong frame of mind, though, Indiana could have beaten us.”

Minnesota swept all six singles matches and won two of three doubles matches for the doubles point.

Indiana (9-14, 1-7) was only able to muster one of the doubles matches versus the Big Ten frontrunners.

The Gophers’ Angela Buergis won a tie-break which substituted for the third set of her match with Sarah Batty to run her conference record to 7-1 at No. 1 singles. With Minnesota already having won the match, Buergis and Batty decided their match with the tie-break after splitting the first two sets.

Women’s track and field

When Minnesota’s women’s track and field team rolled into Eugene, Ore., around 10 p.m. on Friday night – 14 hours before they were slated to compete in the Pepsi Team Invitational – no one could have been faulted for harboring a little skepticism.

But the Gophers smashed all the low expectations Saturday, led by a triple jump that shattered just about everything else.

Senior Shani Marks’ school-record leap of 44-10 1/4, the best jump in the nation this season, powered the Gophers to a second-place finish behind host Oregon in front of 4,579 fans at Hayward Field.

The Gophers’ 172 points topped Washington and Colorado, both of whom finished in the top 20 in the NCAA outdoor championships last year. Marks also won the 400-meter hurdles and ran on the winning 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relay teams, giving her a hand in 36 of Minnesota’s points.

“Every single kid performed wonderfully,” coach Gary Wilson said. “I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Freshmen Melissa Woltman and Majik Reed took the top-two spots in the 100-meter dash, and Reed finished second in the 200-meter dash.

Additionally, junior Alean Frawley won the shot put, and sophomore Nicole Kopari took second in the discus.

“This meet was a huge boost for us,” Wilson said. “We were in a very magical place in terms of competing, and everyone is really starting to respond.”

Men’s track and field

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team took second place in the Pepsi Team Invitational Saturday, finishing second to Oregon with 171.3 points.

Juniors Mitch Potter and Adam Steele posted a one-two finish in the 400-meter dash, and sophomore Karl Erickson won both the shot put and the discus. Overall, the Gophers claimed seven individual titles and the 4×100-meter relay title in the meet.

“This was the first time we’ve opened up a lot of our guys outdoors,” coach Phil Lundin said. “We realized in some areas we’re a little deficient, but overall I’d have to say it was OK.”