Four wins in two duals? Gophers play host to top and bottom of Big Ten

Bob Wothe

Minnesota men’s tennis interim coach David Wheaton thinks his team is capable of turning in four wins this weekend.

Never mind the fact that the Gophers (7-11, 4-4 Big Ten) play only two duals.

“There’s another W and L, and that comes down to bringing a great attitude and great effort to the court,” Wheaton said. “That’s a W we have complete control over. Then, even if we get a loss in the victory column, we have nothing to be ashamed of.”

It won’t be easy to get those four Ws, however, because Minnesota plays host to No. 4 Illinois (18-3, 8-0) on Saturday and Purdue (3-14, 0-8) on Sunday at Baseline Tennis Center.

The Gophers will be bolstered in their quest for four wins by the return of the nation’s 25th-ranked player, senior Avery Ticer, to the lineup after he missed last weekend’s road trip.

Ticer said Wednesday that his doctor suspected bone spurs or a stress fracture in his left knee and precluded him from going on the trip, but both X-rays and an MRI returned negative.

Ticer said that Wednesday was the first time he practiced in approximately two weeks, but that it was a good return.

“My knee feels so much better,” Ticer said. “It was probably the best thing for me to take the weekend off with NCAAs coming up in May. “

Freshman Adrien Debreyne, who partners with Ticer to form the nation’s No. 48 doubles tandem, said he’s looking forward to Ticer’s return.

“We can beat every team; we don’t care who we play,” said Debreyne, who proved his indifference to records and rankings during the weekend with an upset of Indiana’s No. 49 Jakub Praibis. “And Avery coming back makes us a lot stronger.”

As for Wheaton, he said the team’s goal is still to win the Big Ten Tournament and that he does believe four wins this weekend are possible.

“It’s a tough weekend, there’s no question about it,” Wheaton said. “But I tell the guys that there’s not much of a difference between any of the teams at this level – if we play like we can and don’t hurt ourselves, we can beat anyone.”

Women looking ahead

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team (6-12, 1-7 Big Ten) closes out its Big Ten regular season on the road this weekend against No. 52 Purdue (7-12, 4-4) on Saturday and No. 50 Illinois (11-8, 5-3) on Sunday.

Coach Tyler Thomson said that while it’s always true the team can win every match, it’s especially the case this weekend.

He pointed to the Ohio State-Purdue match, in which the Boilermakers won 6-1, but only after the Buckeyes lost three tiebreakers.

“We were up 4-1 in the deciding match against Ohio State,” Thomson said. “We don’t feel in any of these matches that we can’t win. We just need some things to go our way.”

Like their male counterparts, the women will probably need to win both matches and make a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament to make the 64-team NCAA Tournament field.