Gophers fall in the final two regular season matches of the year

Although the Gophers fought until the end, it was not enough as they were topped by Illinois and Northwestern over the weekend.

Senior Marino Alpeza competes in his singles match on Friday, March 22 at the Baseline Tennis Center. 

Image by Courtney Deutz

Senior Marino Alpeza competes in his singles match on Friday, March 22 at the Baseline Tennis Center. 

by David Mullen

The Gophers’ (15-8, 4-7 Big Ten) effort proved to be not enough this weekend against Illinois and Northwestern.

Minnesota lost to Illinois 5-2 and then to Northwestern 4-3 at the Baseline Tennis Center.

“Its a big battle with some tough conditions with the wind and outside … but I give Northwestern and Illinois credit,” head coach Geoff Young told Gopher Sports. “Two great battles and they didn’t go our way this time, but I have to believe if we keep on this track the next one will go our way.”

To start the senior weekend, Minnesota hosted No. 15 Illinois and started on the right track by taking a hard-fought doubles point.

“Heck of a match … [but a] good doubles point for us,” Young told Gopher Sports.

After the Gophers took an early 1-0 lead over the Fighting Illini, the match went back and forth as the Illini quickly tied the dual at 1-1.

Vlad Lobak, who is now fully recovered from illness, moved up from the No. 6 to the No. 5 and breezed through his match winning in two sets, 6-3 and 6-2, which put the Gophers ahead 2-1.

The lead was short-lived as the Illini won two straight matches at the No. 3 spot: 6-3 and 6-3, and at the No. 1 spot: 7-6, 6-4. These two matches gave the Fighting Illini a slight 3-2 lead with only two matches still in play.

Illinois ended up taking the final two matches that both went into three sets at the No. 4 and No. 2 singles spots. Jackson Allen, No. 4 singles, fell 6-4, 4-6 and 7-5 battle after his opponent caught fire in the final set and came back after Allen led 5-2.

Stefan Milicevic in the No. 2 spot took a quick lead in his match by winning the opening game. However, his opponent fought back and forced it into a third set. Milicevic trailed by 5-0 and ultimately lost 7-5.

Sunday loss to Northwestern

In the regular finale against the Northwestern Wildcats, the Gophers again got close but fell short 4-3.

In the doubles battle between the two teams, the Gophers started strong as Allen and Eli Ogilvy won quickly in the No. 2 spot 6-1. The No. 1 doubles dropped their match, leaving the dual up to the No. 3 tandem of Lobak and Marino Alpeza, but they were defeated 7-6.

Milicevic at the No. 2 singles spot tied the dual up at one as he cruised to victory: 6-0 and 6-0. 

From there, the Wildcats took two straight points at the No. 6 and No. 1 singles spots, putting their lead at 3-1.

Lobak, however, brought the Gophers back within one as he continued his near-automatic scoring for Minnesota, winning his match in three sets, 6-2, 4-6 and 6-2.

However, Alpeza would be topped at the No. 3 spot in a highly contested three-set contest that went to the end in every set. He lost 7-6, 5-7 and 7-6. This clinched the victory for the Wildcats, earning their much-needed fourth point.

Allen finished up the day for the Gophers, winning at the No. 4 spot: 6-7, 7-5 and 7-6.

With the regular season now over for the Gophers, the Big Ten Championships begin Thursday.