Gophers fall in round one of the Big Ten championships; season ends

Mehvish Safdar and Caroline Ryba are the only seniors graduating.

Senior Caroline Ryba competes in her singles match against the University of Michigan at Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, March 23.

Jack Rodgers, Daily File Photo

Senior Caroline Ryba competes in her singles match against the University of Michigan at Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, March 23.

Max Biegert

The Gophers came into the Big Ten championships with the best home record, 12-2, in the team’s history.

That fit well with the fact that Minnesota was hosting the conference tournament, but Maryland traveled from the East Coast and turned that Gophers’ home record into 12-3.

Minnesota lost to Maryland 4-2 at the Baseline Tennis Center Thursday. Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher ended the season on a high note with her 22nd victory. However, after failing to capture the doubles point, Minnesota couldn’t find magic in the singles portion to mount the comeback.

“Credit to Maryland, they were more aggressive in the doubles. That hurt us in the doubles point,” head coach Catrina Thompson said. “They played well across the board. We had chances in other matches, but we couldn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”

The Gophers won the first doubles match in the No. 2 spot behind Tina Kreinis and Annemarie Emme’s quick 6-1 victory. Maryland bounced back though, winning the next two matches and take the doubles point in the dual. 

First, Maryland beat Mehvish Safdar and Merzbacher 6-3 in the No. 1 position. Then, Caroline Ryba and River Hart dropped their match 6-4 in the No. 3 spot. 

Merzbacher quickly pulled the Gophers even with Maryland after she won in the No. 5 singles spot. She ended the spring season with only three losses. 

“I just felt like I was really focused every time on the court, having that mentality of leaving it all out there,” Merzbacher said. “I’m happy with how I competed each time.”

The Gophers and Terrapins traded points once again. Maryland captured a victory in the No. 3 spot over Emme 6-1, 6-2. Cammy Frei earned a point for the Gophers in the No. 6 spot with a straight set victory 6-2, 6-4. 

Maryland claimed the next two points to clinch the victory. Ryba lost in the No. 1 spot in her final singles match of her career 6-3, 6-4. Kreinis lost in the No. 2 spot in three sets 6-3, 1-6, 2-6. 

The Gophers graduate Safdar and Ryba, each of whom held important roles on the team. Safdar in the No. 1 doubles spot and Ryba in the No. 1 singles spot.  

“We wanted to send our seniors off on a higher note, but overall, we got to look forward to next year and work hard this summer,” Thompson said.