Men bolster NCAA résumé with two wins

Minnesota has dropped only two Big Ten matches all season.

Minnesotas Jack Hamburg returns a hit from Purdue Sunday, April 14, 2013, at Baseline Tennis Center.

Emily Dunker

Minnesota’s Jack Hamburg returns a hit from Purdue Sunday, April 14, 2013, at Baseline Tennis Center.

by Dane Mizutani

The Gophers men’s tennis team bounced back from one of its worst losses of the season during the weekend, and it might have earned a spot in the NCAA tournament in the process.

The Gophers beat Indiana 6-1 on Friday and beat Purdue 5-2 on Sunday. They’ve won seven of their past eight matches, and the only loss was a 7-0 defeat to conference juggernaut Ohio State last weekend.

Minnesota (11-9, 7-2 Big Ten) has two conference matches left before the postseason. It needs to finish above .500 to qualify for the NCAA tournament in a little more than a month.

“We have two matches next week that we have to win, but those teams should be worse than Purdue,” senior Rok Bonin said after his 6-0, 6-2 win Sunday. “We are pretty confident we are going to make it.”

Bonin finished the weekend 4-0 and didn’t drop a set. He said he has gained a lot of confidence during the past month.

Bonin said although the past month has been successful for the team, a loss to Wisconsin in February was the turning point of the season.

“We changed some stuff up and gained our confidence back after that loss,” he said. “I think against teams like this, we are pretty much unbeatable.”

Still, associate head coach Urban Ljubic said the team has to finish the season with strong performances next week against Nebraska and Iowa.

“It’s never a lock for the NCAA tournament,” he said. “We’re in a great spot to finish very high in the Big Ten, but we have to keep it up.”

Minnesota players have said all season that their goal is to make the Sweet 16.

“I think right now the main goal is still to make it to the NCAA tournament, but we know we’re a dangerous team if we get in,” Ljubic said. “We can upset anyone.”

Women struggle during the weekend

Minnesota’s women’s tennis lost two more matches during the weekend and is headed in the opposite direction of the men’s team.

The Gophers suffered 6-1 losses to Indiana on Saturday and Purdue on Sunday.

Minnesota dropped to 9-12 on the season (3-6 Big Ten) with the losses and looks to be out of contention to make the NCAA tournament.

The Gophers’ only team points of the weekend came from wins by freshman Jessika Mozia and junior Natallia Pintusava.

Hamburg retires in third set against Purdue

Sophomore Jack Hamburg retired in the third set of his match against Purdue on Sunday.

Hamburg has nursed a pesky elbow injury all season, and after the Gophers clinched the match win Sunday, he chose to retire to save himself for next week.

“We want to save him,” Ljubic said. “He’s a big part of our team, and when he’s healthy we have a lot better chance of winning the match.”