After a much-needed week off, the Minnesota women’s tennis team is set to host a pair of ranked opponents at the Baseline Tennis Center this weekend. On Friday, the Gophers will compete in their second Big Ten contest of the season against No. 66 Wisconsin at 6 p.m. On Sunday morning at 11, Minnesota will take on No. 36 Nebraska.
UM has a 14-37 record all-time against its Border Battle rival and lost both times it met the Badgers last season. The Gophers dropped a late-season match in Madison, Wis. that was decided by a third-set tiebreaker at No. 6 singles and fell 4-0 to UW at the Big Ten Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa. Current Minnesota players Alessandra Ferrazzi and Alexa Palen picked up singles wins in the first match and UM swept the doubles point.
The Gophers had an untarnished 12-0 record against the Cornhuskers before falling 4-3 in Lincoln, Neb. last season. Magdalena Wiecha was the only current player on the Minnesota roster to record a singles win in that match, but the Gophers did take the doubles competition with wins by Ferrazzi and Palen at the top position and Doron Muravnik and Mariana Spilca at No. 3.
At the Wildcat Invitational in Evanston, Ill. last fall, Ferrazzi, Palen, Emilie Renault, and Peta Forsyth all lost singles matches against opponents from Wisconsin. Freshman No. 54, Natallia Pintusava, the only UM player to face a UNL opponent in the fall, advanced past the Cornhuskers’ Stefanie Weinstein in the Round of 16 at the USTA/ITA Central Regional Championships in Fayetteville Arkansas on the road to an appearance in the tournament’s championship match.
Minnesota has begun the spring with a 4-4 start, recording one win and one loss in each of its first four weekends of play. All four of the Gophers’ wins have come against unranked opponents and all four of their losses have been to teams ranked No. 53 or higher. Hampered by nagging injuries, UM almost completed a weekend sweep of Brigham Young then-No. 39 North Carolina two weeks ago, but the Wolf Pack pulled out a narrow 4-3 win that came down to a three-set thriller at No. 6 on Feb. 20.
Much like Minnesota, Wisconsin has yet to beat an opponent ranked (in the latest rankings) and has not been beaten by an unranked opponent. The Badgers, who began the season ranked No. 74, are off to a 7-2 start and most recently toppled Marquette 6-1 at home. The Gophers beat the Golden Eagles 4-3 in Milwaukee, Wis. earlier in the year. Friday night’s match will be UW’s first in the Big Ten in 2011.
In its first weekend of the season, Nebraska was shutout by to now-No.9 Northwestern who also beat the Gophers 7-0, but have been perfect ever since. The Cornhuskers will ride a seven-game unbeaten streak into its match against Wisconsin at the Baseline Tennis Center on Saturday at 1 p.m. before finishing their weekend against UM.
This weekend’s pair of home competitions will put an end to a seven-match homestand for the Gophers, who will head to Columbia, Mo. next week to play Drake and Missouri.