Women to host Big Ten tournament, men hit road

Both teams have plenty to play for when they take the court today for their first-round matchups.

Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota women’s tennis team dealt with tight losses, injuries, redshirts and absences throughout the course of its regular season.

Starting today, none of these things will matter as the Gophers send out a lineup battling late-season aches and pains into the Big Ten Championships, held at the Baseline Tennis Center.

Minnesota (11-10 overall, 4-6 Big Ten) took the No. 7 seed after its Sunday victory over Illinois. The Illini (5-16, 1-9) will not have to wait long for a rematch as they battle the Gophers in the first round at the No. 10 seed.

The winner of the match will face a tough Indiana team (19-5, 9-1), who earned the No. 2 seed.

Coach Tyler Thomson, whose team doubled its conference win total from a year ago, said Minnesota has a chance to surprise in the tournament.

“We’re going to have to be our very best if we want to make a run in the tournament,” he said. “We know that we’re not far off and have that ability.”

The Gophers finished under .500 in the conference, but three of those losses came by the way of 4-3 dropped decisions to three of the better teams in the conference in Indiana, No. 5 Ohio State (18-9, 6-4) and No. 6 Purdue (12-8, 5-5).

This fact is not lost on senior Ashley Schellhas, who said the Gophers believe they have a chance against anyone if everyone plays their top tennis.

“We’ve competed well against some of the top teams,” she said. “The tournament gives us a chance to prove we’re right up there with them.”

Junior Danielle Mousseau, who returned to the lineup this past weekend by posting a 2-0 singles mark, said whatever happened in the regular season is in the rearview mirror as the team enters tournament competition.

“We know how close we are to being in the upper echelon of the conference,” she said. “Now is our chance to bring a healthy lineup into the tournament and show what we can do.”

Men compete on road

The Minnesota men’s team concluded its up-and-down season with a conference win on Sunday to capture the No. 6 seed in today’s opening round of the Big Ten Championships, held in West Lafayette, Ind.

The Gophers (15-8, 5-5) will meet tournament-host Purdue (8-13, 1-9), who earned the No. 11 seed, in the first round.

The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to face No. 3 Illinois (16-7, 8-2).

Coming into the conference season, Minnesota was a top-25 team seemingly capable of a top-three Big Ten finish.

Things haven’t exactly played out as scripted in a roller coaster ride of a season that wrapped up with the Gophers in the middle of the conference pack.

Senior Mikey Kantar said the team’s seeding for the tournament is no doubt a disappointment, but that it will be used as a motivating factor.

“We want a rematch with Illinois and a chance to make some noise,” he said. “I know we’re capable of it, and we just need to go out there and prove it.”