Gophers beat both Michigan schools at home

Minnesota split its pair of matches on the women’s side over the weekend.

Minnesota sophomore Ruben Weber plays a singles match against Michigan at Baseline Tennis Center on Friday.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota sophomore Ruben Weber plays a singles match against Michigan at Baseline Tennis Center on Friday.

Jace Frederick

Sunday marked the last time Juan Pablo Ramirez competitively took the court at the Baseline Tennis Center.

The senior walked out a winner, topping Harry Jadun of Michigan State in straight sets.

Ramirez’s win added another tally to the Gophers’ 5-2 win over Michigan State, completing a weekend sweep after Minnesota topped Michigan by the same total Friday night.

“I was really happy for him,” head coach Geoff Young said. “When the team can win and he can win, that’s fun.”

Ramirez, like the team, went 2-0 on the weekend, and he appears to be shaping into top form as the Gophers make a final push toward the postseason.

“I think hard work pays back,” he said. “I played well [this weekend], so it was a good feeling.”

Ramirez’s contributions at the bottom of the lineup will be pivotal down the stretch as Minnesota makes its NCAA tournament push.

Young said the Gophers need to finish above .500 and in the top 45 of the ITA rankings to qualify for postseason play — a very attainable standard with one weekend left in the regular season.

Minnesota junior Leandro Toledo will likely lead the Gophers’ charge. Toledo won two matches at No. 1 singles over the weekend — he’s now won six straight.

Ramirez said the team tries not to think about the NCAA tournament, but it still does. The Gophers’ postseason aspirations motivate them to practice and compete harder every day, he said.

“I think everyone’s playing really well at this point, so we just need to stay positive,” he said.

As for Ramirez’s last home match of his career, the thought hasn’t really crossed his mind yet. He’s caught up in this moment, in this team’s run toward the tournament.

“It probably hasn’t hit me yet,” he said. “I’m going to miss it, for sure, and I’m going to miss the team and the coaches.”

Gophers women top Michigan State

Gophers head coach Chuck Merzbacher said he felt like he was going to vomit.

That’s how much pressure was on the No. 61 Gophers down the stretch Sunday in East Lansing, Mich.

With Minnesota trailing 3-2 to the No. 60 Spartans, Julia Courter fought off multiple match points at No. 4 singles before claiming the match in three sets.

Then Maja Vujic sealed the match for the Gophers with her No. 6 singles victory in another three-set thriller.

“That was a great win,” Merzbacher said. “We all felt really good that we could pull it off.

“We just had to do it, and we did.”

The Gophers drew wins from No. 4 singles, No. 5 singles and No. 6 singles Sunday, something they’ve grown accustomed to at the bottom of their order.

Still, after losing the doubles point to start the match, they needed something more.

That’s where senior Natallia Pintusava stepped in.

Pintusava, who had dropped five consecutive matches, came away with an upset victory at No. 2 singles.

The Gophers’ win over Michigan State came just two days after they lost 7-0 to No. 14 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Sunday marked the Gophers’ sixth Big Ten win of the season, the first time they’ve reached that plateau since 2003.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Merzbacher said.

For Minnesota’s postseason hopes, Merzbacher said that Sunday was the biggest win of the season to date.

“It’s a big win at this moment and time,” he said. “It’s a clutch win. It was huge.”