Loss to Ohio State hurts NCAA hopes

The Gophers lost 4-0 on Friday to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament.

by Bob Wothe

In the immortal words of author Alexandre Dumas, Minnesota’s men’s tennis team can only wait and hope.

The seventh-seeded Gophers (9-13, 6-6 Big Ten) were swept by second-seed Ohio State (19-7, 10-2) 4-0 on Friday in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament in Champaign, Ill.

Now, the 54th-ranked Minnesota squad must wait until Wednesday, when the brackets for the NCAA Tournament are announced at 3:45 p.m., to see whether it will make the 64-team field for the 12th-consecutive season.

“I’ll be honest: Our chances aren’t the greatest,” senior Avery Ticer said. “But you never know. Nothing would surprise me, so we just have to wait and see.”

The Gophers can only hope to be one of the 34 at-large teams selected by the NCAA after the 30 automatic qualifiers that won their respective conferences are taken.

But the team wouldn’t be in this position had it taken care of business in Champaign.

The dual against the Buckeyes started off promising as Minnesota drew first blood at No. 3 doubles but then lost at No. 2 doubles.

The doubles point came down to No. 1 doubles, in which the 50th-ranked tandem of Ticer and Adrien Debreyne were trying to repeat their upset performance of the then-No. 1 Ohio State tandem in March, when the Gophers won the doubles point but narrowly lost to the Buckeyes 4-3.

But the now-fifth-ranked Ohio State duo won 9-8 (3) in a tiebreaker, giving Ohio State a 1-0 lead and the momentum.

“Doubles was really close, but Ohio State just played really well,” Ticer said. “They had a few good serves and really good returns in the tiebreaker, and that pretty much did it.”

From there, the Buckeyes jumped out to an early lead in every singles match, and wins at Nos. 3, 6, and 1 singles, in that order, ended the Gophers’ hopes of a deep run into the Big Ten Tournament.

“We couldn’t get over the hump,” Ticer said. “We had some opportunities but couldn’t convert on them.”

No matter if Minnesota makes the tournament, Ticer’s season will continue in the NCAA singles championships in College Station, Texas, later this month. He said he likes his chances at the singles championships.

“It’s in Texas, and it’s outdoors, which I think is definitely to my advantage,” said Ticer, a Texas native. “It’s always been a major goal of mine to qualify, and I’m going to do my best to do some damage and enjoy the tournament.”