Men open Big Ten tourney against Penn State

by Zach Eisendrath

Minnesota’s men’s tennis coach David Geatz probably is hoping for rain all weekend.

The Gophers are hosting the Big Ten Tournament this weekend, but are pining for other advantages besides being able to sleep in their own beds.

Minnesota (13-11, 7-3 Big Ten) will take on Penn State (15-5, 5-5 Big Ten) at 2 p.m. today in the tournament quarterfinals at the Baseline Tennis Center. The sixth-seeded Nittany Lions advanced after knocking off 11th-seeded Iowa on Thursday.

The 41st-ranked Gophers are glad to be playing at home, but aren’t exactly looking at their outdoor courts as a benefit.

“If it was indoors and our home court it would be in our favor, but these outdoor courts are a little difficult to play on,” Geatz said. “They are just unbelievably slow. They are the slowest courts that anybody will play on this year. The court surface is very different out there.”

Junior Sion Wilkins said he isn’t a fan of Minnesota’s outdoor courts, but that regardless of the situation the Gophers need to take care of business.

“It is a lot mentally harder to play on these courts than other courts,” Wilkins said. “They aren’t my favorite courts but you have to win anyway, man up.”

When the Gophers met Penn State on April 14, Minnesota prevailed 5-2 in a match closer than its final score. The Gophers won the doubles point after winning at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles in tiebreakers, 9-8. All six singles matches were competitive as well.

“They are a tough team,” Wilkins said. “We had a close match with them last time but we won the doubles point luckily.

“It was just a good day because everything seemed to work for us and that’s why we were able to win. We’re going to have to be focused and play good if we want to win.”

Third singles player Raoul Schwark agreed that the Gophers will need more than luck in doubles. Schwark said the match’s outcome could be decided by the doubles point.

“It’s not that they are great in doubles,” Schwark said, “but we are pretty much even. It will just be tough to win four singles.”

Geatz said he thinks the Gophers need to win their quarterfinal match against Penn State to secure an NCAA berth. Still, despite the weekend’s ramifications and the possibility of playing three matches in three days, Minnesota will prepare as usual.

“We’ll prepare the same way because you just have to prepare one match at a time or you’ll be done,” Geatz said.

As for how Geatz hopes the weekend concludes?

“I hope the weekend ends for us Sunday,” Geatz said. “That means we are in the finals. But there are a lot of great teams, so nothing’s going to be easy.”

Women’s season ends

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team (5-18, 2-8 Big Ten), seeded ninth in the Big Ten Tournament, lost Thursday to Penn State. The Gophers swept all three doubles spots to take a 1-0 lead over the eighth-seeded Nittany Lions (9-12, 2-8 Big Ten), but fell in four of the six singles positions – ending their season with a crushing 4-3 first-round exit.

After securing the doubles point and wins at Nos. 1 and 2 singles by senior Nischela Reddy and junior Ida Malmberg, respectively, Minnesota looked in full control.

But when Penn State evened the dual at 3-3 with wins at the four through six singles positions, the match came down to sophomore Danielle Mousseau at third singles.

Mousseau lost the first set 6-4 to Katelyn BeVard, came back to win the second set decisively 6-0, but eventually fell 6-4 in the third, sending the Lions to the quarterfinals against top-seeded Northwestern and ending the Gophers season.