Saying it has been a rough season for Minnesota’s women’s tennis team would be a large understatement.
But in its final weekend of Big Ten competition, the Gophers (5-17, 2-8 Big Ten) pulled out all the stops for their second conference win of the season.
Minnesota handled Illinois (7-14, 2-8 Big Ten) 5-2 on Saturday at Baseline Tennis Center. On Sunday, Purdue (12-9, 6-4 Big Ten) blanked the Gophers 7-0.
“Saturday was a great win,” coach Tyler Thomson said. “We beat them convincingly and had some really nice performances all around.
“If we can remember (Saturday) and not (Sunday), we’ll have some nice momentum going into next weekend,” he said.
But on Saturday Minnesota finally put everything together.
Like in their first Big Ten win against Wisconsin, the Gophers relied on the No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Danielle Mousseau and freshman Mariana Spilca to gain the doubles point.
After winning No. 1 doubles and losing at No. 3, Mousseau and Spilca held off Shivani Davé and Brianna Knue for the narrow 9-8 (4) victory.
“They did a nice job at rising to the occasion,” Thomson said. “They’ve done a really nice job at coming through and winning big matches for us.”
Said Mousseau: “We felt like we had been there before, so we kind of knew we could do it. Coach was like ‘Remember what you did,’ so we went out and did it.”
With the 1-0 advantage heading into singles, Minnesota didn’t look back, winning four of the six singles spots.
Highlighting the dual win was the performance of senior Nischela Reddy at the No. 1 singles position.
In her final regular season weekend of her collegiate career, Reddy stunned 56th-ranked Macall Harkins 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1 – handing Harkins her first loss of the Big Ten season.
“I had a pretty good sense of her game,” Reddy said. “I played a bad first set, and I played completely into her game. But then in the second set I started believing I could do it. I kind of got down on myself but my teammates really pumped me up, and I believed I could do it.”
Sophomore Jane Anderson also picked up a notable win at No. 5 singles. Anderson defeated Davé 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Anderson – who sat out all of the fall and the majority of the spring season with a series of arm injuries – has been serving underhand since her return.
But serving underhand, which has been a sizable disadvantage for Anderson, didn’t play any role on Saturday.
On Sunday the Gophers couldn’t muster much of a rally against Purdue, but kept battling – something assistant coach Luciano Battaglini said has been a constant throughout the Gophers’ injury-plagued season.
“I think the whole year we’ve been struggling outcome wise all season,” he said. “But the effort has been great. I think we have literally maximized what we had.”
Men split on the road
Minnesota’s men’s tennis team didn’t quite deliver on its lofty goals for its last weekend of Big Ten action.
However, the 37th-ranked Gophers (13-11, 7-3 Big Ten) did exactly what they thought they needed to do to secure an NCAA tournament bid.
Minnesota fell to No. 5 Illinois (20-5, 9-1 Big Ten) in Champaign, Ill., 6-1 on Saturday but came back Sunday to sweep Purdue (8-14, 3-7 Big Ten) 7-0 in West Lafayette, Ind.
“The match had huge implications for our future,” junior captain Mikey Kantar said. “We knew if we didn’t beat Purdue that we couldn’t have an argument for getting into the NCAAs.”
The Gophers did exactly what they have been preaching all season long – beating teams they said they should beat.
After last week’s letdown against Indiana, the Gophers knew they had to beat Purdue to make their case for a NCAA Tournament bid.
“We had to win to keep our season going,” coach David Geatz said. “Everybody just went out and took care of business.”
The team will find out after the Big Ten tournament whether they will compete in the NCAAs.