In the first outdoor match of the year at the Baseline Tennis Center, Minnesota put a halt to its eight-match losing skid with a dramatic 4-3 comeback win over No. 60 Michigan State on Sunday. The victory was the Gophers' first in Big Ten play and first over a ranked opponent in 2011.
"This was an important win for us," said Minnesota head coach Tyler Thomson. "I really feel like we can finish the Big Ten season very strongly and we needed some momentum going in the right direction. It will help us moving forward."
In doubles play, it was MSU who would need a late rally for a win. After the Spartans' 19th-ranked doubles tandem of Amy Barton and Marina Bohrer and UM's Alexa Palen and Alessandra Ferrazzi each gave their respective teams doubles victories, the competition came down to No. 3 singles. There, Michigan State's Michaela Silesova and Valentina Rusakova nullified multiple match points and earned a 9-7 win to give MSU the match's first point.
Bohrer and Rusakova added to the Spartans' lead and put the Gophers on the brink of a ninth consecutive loss win singles wins, but Minnesota stayed persistent.
Palen started UM's charge with a convincing 6-4, 6-1 win against Olga Chernova at No. 4 and Magdalena Wiecha trimmed the deficit to one with a win at No. 5. Doron Muravnik knotted the score with a 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Dana Guentert at No. 6, the Gophers' first victory at the sixth position all year.
"[Muravnik] is playing the best tennis of her career right now," Thomson said. "The first half of the season, number six was a real Achilles heel for us, but now I feel like it's one of our stronger spots. She's competing well and she's moving better than she was earlier."
The match was to be decided by the winner at the top flight in singles play, where No. 56-ranked Natallia Pintusava had dropped the first set to No. 121 Barton. Barton was on the cusp of her 12th singles win of the season with a 6-5 lead in the second set, but Pintusava stormed back win the second set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (3). The UM freshman would then roll in the decisive third set and seal the overall victory for the Gophers with a 6-1 win.
"She righted the ship mentally," said Thomson of Pintusava. "She was upset after she lost her lead in the second set, but she started being in control mentally and exhibiting more positivity and she made better decisions when she was on defense."
Minnesota will hit the road next week to face No. 58 Purdue and Indiana before travelling to No. 73 Ohio State and Penn State the following week. The Gophers will conclude their regular season schedule at home on April 22 and 24 against Illinois and Iowa.
Minnesota 4, No. 60 Michigan State 3
April 3, 2011
Baseline Tennis Center · Minneapolis, Minn.
1. No. 56 Natallia Pintusava (MINN) def. No. 121 Amy Barton (MSU) 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1
2. Valentina Rusakova (MSU) def. Alessandra Ferrazzi (MINN) 6-4, 6-3
3. Marina Bohrer (MSU) def. Yuliana Umanets (MINN) 6-1, 6-3
4. Alexa Palen (MINN) def. Olga Chernova (MSU) 6-4, 6-1
5. Magdalena Wiecha (MINN) def. Nicole Herzog (MSU) 6-0, 6-4
6. Doron Muravnik (MINN) def. Dana Guentert (MSU) 6-3, 6-4
1. No. 19 Amy Barton/Marina Bohrer (MSU) def. Natallia Pintusava/Yuliana Umanets (MINN) 8-1
2. Alexa Palen/Alessandra Ferrazzi (MINN) def. Nicole Herzog/Whitney Wilson (MSU) 8-2
3. Michaela Silesova/Valentina Rusakova (MSU) def. Magdalena Wiecha/Mariana Spilca (MINN) 9-7
Michigan State 12-6 (1-4 Big Ten); National ranking No. 60
Minnesota 5-11 (1-3 Big Ten)
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (2,3,4,5,6,1)