Men’s tennis aims to stay undefeated at home

by Jabari Ritchie

After coming out of its last series with a disappointing 1-1 split, Minnesota’s men’s tennis team is playing for position and ranking instead of a regular season Big Ten title this weekend.

If it were not for last week’s upset loss at Purdue, the 23rd-ranked Gophers would have a chance to move toward the top of the standings with a win over No. 39 Northwestern and No. 2 Illinois (16-4, 6-0 Big Ten).

The matches will be Minnesota’s last at the 98th Street Racquet Club in Bloomington.

“The goals are to try and win both matches,” said junior Thomas Haug. “So far we are undefeated at home and we beat a top 10 team, Notre Dame, in our very first match of the season here. I’m expecting everybody to compete hard and try their best.”

Minnesota (11-5, 4-2 Big Ten), was shorthanded in last weekend’s matches with Indiana and the Boilermakers, but top player Harsh Mankad returns for the remainder of the season.

Mankad, ranked No. 3 in the nation, has missed several matches while competing with India’s Davis Cup team.

“We’re fielding a whole lineup this weekend and I think we’re good enough to win both matches,” said coach David Geatz. “A win over Illinois should put us back in the top 10 in the country, which is where I always thought we should be at the start of the year.”

The Gophers ñ tied with the Wildcats and Purdue behind conference-leading Ohio State and the Illini ñ are not mathematically eliminated from a regular season title, but their chances are slim.

Minnesota trails Illinois and the Buckeyes by two games with four matches remaining.

“We could win the regular season, but some really strange stuff would have to happen,” Geatz said. “We’re trying to win both matches to get a high seeding in the Big Ten tournament and we’d also like to get our ranking into the top 16 in the country.”

Women headed to Illinois

Following its first Big Ten win of the season, Minnesota’s women’s tennis team hopes to build on its success at No. 67 Illinois and 18th-ranked Northwestern this weekend.

The No. 73 Gophers (6-12, 1-6 Big Ten) 4-3 upset over Indiana last Sunday moved them into the national rankings for the first time since Jan. 30.

“Our goals are to focus on the things that carried us through on Sunday ñ team camaraderie, team effort, and team enthusiasm ñ and let the results take care of themselves,” said coach Tyler Thomson.

The Illini (8-10, 3-3 Big Ten) also came out of a slump last week. Illinois lost seven straight matches before beating Iowa on Saturday.

On the other hand, the Wildcats (14-5, 6-0 Big Ten) have been the top team in the conference all season. Minnesota has not defeated Northwestern since 1997.

“I think we can win that one too,” said 123rd-ranked sophomore Valerie Vladea. “They haven’t really lost, but they’re also not that much better than usÖ. People can beat Northwestern.”