A tall task awaits the Minnesota women's tennis team on Friday morning as the Gophers take on the nation's top-ranked team with a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal match against Northwestern. Today's match gets underway at 10 a.m. in Madison, Wis. Follow all the action here today on gophersports.com as Gopher tennis media relations contact Jim Strick provides updates throughout the match. You can submit questions or comments at email@example.com.
12:42 p.m. - A lot to be proud of for Minnesota both today and all season. The Gophers finish the season with a 12-12 record. It was asking a lot to keep it going today against a team like Northwestern, but the Gophers put up a much better performance than when they lost to the Wildcats two weeks ago. Minnesota will head back to the hotel to check out and then hit the road for the four-hour trip home in their two vans. Hope everyone enjoyed following along this weekend and keeping up with gophersports.com all season. Hopefully we'll be able to provide more coverage like this for matches next season. Thanks to coach Thomson and the team for allowing me to join them this weekend and keep our fans updated on what's happening both on and off the court. See you next year!
12:38 p.m. - Wisconsin and Michigan have taken the courts to warm up for their quarterfinal, which starts at 2 p.m. Also too bad for Koprivica when the match ended. One of her best friends from Serbia, Aleksandra Markovic, plays for Wisconsin and was giving her plenty of support.
12:34 p.m. - Murray just clinched the match for Northwestern with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Ferrazzi at No. 3. Too bad for Koprivica because she had a set point at No. 2, but a keen eye from her opponent noticed that the other match had just ended and she walked off the court before T had a chance to take the set. Wilikins was also ahead 5-4 in her second set. The Wildcats advance to face either Indiana or Ohio State in the semifinals on Saturday.
12:31 p.m. - Seaton trails 5-2 in the second set at No. 6 and Ferrazzi is down 5-4 at No. 3.
12:29 p.m. - Starting to finally see some frustration on the faces of the Northwestern players as the Gophers continue to battle and keep this match going. T has that fiery look again at No. 2 and just won two straight games to take a 5-4 lead in the second set.
12:23 p.m. - Northwestern's Nazlie Ghazal was finally able to finish her match with Wiecha, winning her service game to put Northwestern ahead 3-0 with a 6-2, 6-2 victory at No. 5.
12:22 p.m. - More good news for the Gophers as Wilkins just won two straight games and now leads her second set 5-2. Hopefully the Gophers can force a few third sets here and make the Wildcats nervous.
12:19 p.m. - A lot to be proud of right now for Minnesota fans as none of the Gopher players are throwing in the towel despite facing deficits against such good players. Wiecha is battling at No. 5 and just fought off several match points to win a long service game and keep her match alive, despite still trailing 6-2, 5-2. Koprivica is down 4-3 in the second set and Seaton now trails 3-2.
12:13 p.m. - Second sets are going fairly well for the Gophers. Ferrazzi just won two games and leads 3-2. Seaton is up 2-1 and Wilkins is up 3-2. Here are all the scores:
No. 1- NW won 6-1, 6-1
No. 2- NW 6-2, 3-2
No. 3- NW 6-3, 2-3
No. 4- NW 6-2, 2-3
No. 5- NW 6-2, 5-1
No. 6- NW 6-4, 1-2
12:09 p.m. - Wiecha just fell behind 4-1 in the second set after losing the first 6-2. We'll update the scores of all the matches shortly.
12:06 p.m. - The battery on the laptop died it's been a scramble to find power and re-boot the computer. Here's what's happening...Seaton lost her first set 6-4 and Koprivica lost hers 6-2. Mosolova just put Northwestern ahead 2-0 by completing her match with Chiarelli with a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Wilkins has taken a 2-1 lead in the second set of her match at No. 4.
11:52 a.m. - Good start for Wiecha in the second set, serving out a victory in the first game.
11:51 a.m. - Lui took the first set from Wilkins by a 6-2 count at No. 4. Murray also finished off the first set against Ferrazzi 6-3 at No. 3.
11:49 a.m. - Two straight wins from Seaton have cut her defict at No. 6 to 5-4. Ferrazzi is now down 5-3 and Koprivica trails 5-2. Mosolova took the first game of the second set from Chiarelli.
11:46 a.m. - Wiecha just lost her first set at No. 5 by a 6-2 score.
11:45 a.m. - Mosolova just took the first set from Chiarelli 6-1. It's fun watching the nation's No.1 player up close and makes you wonder what kind of chances she'll have, if any, to play professionally. Most women's tennis players seem to be at their prime before the age of 20. She's only a sophomore. Not sure if any collegiate tennis players ever consider leaving school early to join the pro circuit. Chances are if she's getting a free education at a great school like Northwestern she won't leave, but the Gophers and the rest of the Big Ten sure wouldn't mind if she did after taking Player of the Year honors each of her first two years.
11:41 a.m. - Lui just took two straight games from Wilkins and now leads 5-2 at No. 4. Murray served out her game against Ferrazzi to take a 4-3 lead and they're on serve at No. 3.
11:39 a.m. - Here's an update of where we're at. Northwestern won the doubles point.
No. 1- NW 5-1
No. 2 -NW 4-2
No. 3- Tied 3-3
No. 4- NW 3-2
No. 5- NW 5-2
No. 6- NW 6-2
11:37 a.m. - The clouds are clearing and it's really getting warm. Supposed to be in the 80's today. The Gophers might be getting steamy in the all black uniforms they're wearing today. Northwestern is wearing white shirts with black trim and black skirts. Kind of funny considering neither school has black as an official color. Ferrazzi has evened her match at 3-3. Chiarelli is now trailing 5-1 at No. 1 and Seaton is down 5-2 at No. 6.
11:33 a.m. - Murray got those two games back from Ferrazzi at No. 3 and regained her 3-2 lead. Seaton had her serve broken at No. 6 and now trails 3-2. On all but one court, the score tallies are on the opposite side of the officials, so they aren't being updated very often. Fortunately, the officials are calling the scores loudly and I just heard that Wiecha got a game to cut her deficit to 4-1. Wilkins also just won two straight and now trails 3-2 at No. 4.
11:29 a.m. - One of the sights to see in Madison is State Street and Tyler took the team down there on Thursday afternoon. Sounds like everyone had a good time checking out the shops and restaurants downtown. Due to a scheduling quirk, the Gophers haven't played in Madison the past two years, so many of the women have never been here before. Some of the ladies also took in a movie yesterday afteroon as the Gophers had plenty of time to kill after finishing up around noon and the banquet not starting until 7 p.m. Koprivica just took a game at No. 2 and now trails 2-1. Ferrazzi has won two straight games at No. 3 and took a 2-1 lead.
11:24 a.m. - Seaton is performing well at No. 6 and just evened her match at 2-all. Wiecha at No. 5 and Wilkins at No. 4 are each down 3-0. Mosolova just got her service break back from Chiarelli and took a 3-1 lead.
11:21 a.m. - Singles isn't off to a very good start for the Gophers as Northwestern took the opening game in every match. Chiarelli, however, just broke serve against the nation's No. 1 and trails Mosolova 2-1. Koprivica had a break point against Rose at No. 2, but she battled back to win after a couple deuces and took a 2-0 lead.
11:11 a.m. - We're moments away from singles getting started. Welcome to everyone following along today. It was good to hear from Peta Forsyth's parents in Wagga Wagga, Australia. Magdalena Wiecha said her parents would have loved to follow along in Poland, but they don't speak a word of English. Maybe our web guys can work on some kind of translation for that in the future!
11:07 a.m. - Good luck today to the Gopher men's team as they open their Big Ten tournament play today at 1 p.m. central in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Gophers are the third seed and play sixth-seeded Indiana today. What a great season they've had this year with an 11-game turnaround from last year. They are 18-6 this year after going 7-17 last season. Little disappointing that Geoff Young wasn't named Big Ten Coach of the Year. The Ohio State coach is certainly deserving for winning the league title and having another great season, but what Geoff and Urban Ljubic did with the Gophers this year was pretty amazing. There won't be any live blog from the men's tournament, but we'll have recaps posted as soon as possible after each match this weekend. Hopefully they'll be playing lots of tennis the next three days.
11:00 a.m. - Singles play is still about 10 minutes from getting started. Four Northwestern singles players are nationally ranked. Chiarelli will face the nation's top-ranked player today, Maria Mosolova. The sophomore from Russia was the Big Ten Player of the Year for the second straight year and beat Karina 6-1, 6-2 in the dual a couple weeks ago. Koprivica gets the 20th-ranked player in Georgia Rose, who beat her 6-3, 6-1 in the dual. Ferrazzi will play 44th-ranked Samantha Murray and Wilkins plays 106th-ranked Lauren Lui.
10:53 a.m. - The doubles point has been decided as the Wildcats just finished off an 8-2 win at No. 3. The No. 2's were down 7-4 when their match was suspended. Give Northwestern's No. 2 tandem credit for winning the last four games. Koprivica had a solid backhand skim off the top of the net and land wide for the final point of the last game. The Gophers need every break they can get today and haven't gotten any yet. Hopefully those will be coming in singles.
10:47 a.m. - Northwestern now leading 7-2 at No. 3 and 6-4 at No. 2.
10:45 a.m. - This No. 2 doubles match has been very entertaining. Hopefully our No. 3's can rally to keep their match going or else the No. 2's will be suspended. It's nice in these postseason matches that individual matches are called once the team score has been decided, but often the best matches of the day are the ones that don't get finished. Northwestern just broke Koprivica's serve to take a 5-4 lead. Koprivica and Sperling have been playing very well recently. They are only 5-3 for the season, but they have won three straight. With both being juniors, don't be surprised to see this pairing as a part of the Gophers' lineup next fall.
10:40 a.m. - The No. 1 doubles match is over with Northwestern winning 8-0. Very surprising result considering that was Ferrazzi and Chiarelli's first loss of the year and only their fourth in 25 career matches. Rose and Lui from Northwestern were really on top of their game and are going to be tough to beat in the national tournament. Hard to believe they're only ranked 21st in the country.
10:34 a.m. - Had to take a break to apply some sunscreen as the clouds are starting to break. Wanted to make sure and mention that so my colleagues sitting back in the office know how rough it is out here and things aren't as easy as they might seem. Sperling just had her serve broken, but the No. 2's broke back and regained their 4-3 lead up a break. Northwestern just went up 7-0 at No. 1. The Wildcats are up 5-2 at No. 3.
10:30 a.m. - Our Gopher tennis "supafans" just arrived. Two U of M students named Tou and Kev drove all the way to Madison just to watch the matches. They left Thursday morning at 1 a.m. and made their own pink T-shirts to cheer on the team. Niltooli and Liz's moms were so impressed they even gave the guys money for gas. Tyler also bought them lunch yesterday. As Tyler said, you get very special treatment when you decide to become a big fan of a sport that doesn't get a lot of fan attention like tennis. Hopefully their presence will get the Gophers going. Minnesota is down 6-0 at No. 1 and 4-1 at No. 3. Sperling is still serving with a 3-2 lead at No. 2.
10:26 a.m. - Things are going well at No. 2 doubles. Sperling and Koprivica are carrying over their strong play from Thursday and just broke serve to take a 3-2 lead. T is getting fired up and everyone who follows Gopher tennis knows what she's like when she starts getting "locked in" on the match. She and Sperling lost to Mosolova and Robison 8-3 in the dual just two weeks ago.
10:24 a.m. - Last night was the annual league banquet. It was a very nice event with great food and, perhaps best of all, lasted just an hour, 20 minutes. It was held in the concourse of the Kohl Center, which is a beautiful on-campus arena and the home of Wisconsin's basketball and hockey teams. The ladies dressed up very nice and seemed to have a lot of fun. Wisconsin and Iowa were still playing their match, so those teams arrived late and didn't get a chance to clean up and go all out like the others. Each coach introduced his or her seniors and presented them with a rose. Tyler made some nice comments about Liz, Alex and Karina, while intentionally mispronouncing Alex's hometown of Edina to get a few laughs from his team. The league awards were also handed out.
10:19 a.m. - An update on the trip so far, after yesterday's win over Penn State, the team went to lunch and Penn State actually showed up at the same restaurant, which was a bit awkward. This morning at breakfast, Ohio State's team was at the table right behind the Gophers. The Buckeyes are also playing right now against Indiana on courts across town. Making me wonder if there just aren't that many restaurants in Madison that we can't seem to avoid running into these other teams. The No. 1's are behind 3-0 and the No. 3's are down 2-0. Minnesota jumped out to a love-30 lead on the Wildcats serve at No. 1, but couldn't finish it off. The No. 2's are on serve with the Wildcats up 2-1 and Koprivica serving.
10:13 a.m. - Sperling served a strong game to even the No. 2 match at 1-1. Northwestern caught a break at No. 1 with a net cord that tumbled over the net at deuce and the Wildcats coverted the next point to take a 2-0 lead. About 20 people in attendance this morning.
10:10 a.m. - Northwestern served first in all three doubles matches and took the first game in each. All four players on the Wildcats' top two doubles teams were named to the all-Big Ten team on Thursday night. Minnesota did not get any all-Big Ten selections this year.
10:06 a.m. - Coach Thomson feels like the Gophers have a fair chance to get the doubles point today, which would create some interesting dynamics heading into singles. At No. 1, the Northwestern team is ranked 21st and Minnesota is ranked 51st. Keep in mind that the Gophers' team of Chiarelli and Ferrazzi is 21-3 all-time and has never lost in a dual match with a 10-0 record. Northwestern's No. 2 team is ranked 33rd, but Sperling and Koprivica played their best match of the season on Thursday against Penn State, rolling to an 8-0 win.
10:02 a.m. - Well, the winds are picking up now. In fact, so much so that they blew the flag over in the middle of the national anthem. It will be interesting to see if that affects today's match at all. Here's Northwestern's lineup. Players are warming up and we're a few minutes away from the opening serves.
No. 1 - Lauren Lui-Georgia Rose
No. 2 - Maria Mosolova-Keri Robison
No. 3 - Samantha Murray-Elena Chernyakova
No. 1 - Mosolova
No. 2 - Rose
No. 3 - Murray
No. 4 - Lui
No. 5 - Nazlie Ghazal
No. 6 - Robison
9:53 a.m. - We're just about ready to get started as teams are lining up for introductions and the national anthem. Haven't seen Northwestern's lineup yet.
9:47 a.m. - Good morning everyone and welcome to Madison for today's match. The Gophers know the odds are against them today, but they seem confident in at least putting up a good fight and, who knows, maybe even pulling the big upset. As coach Tyler Thomson said Thursday, "We'd be doing a disservice to ourselves if we didn't go into the match with the full intention of winning."
Some of what the Gophers are up against today...Northwestern is 22-1 overall and has won 74 consecutive matches against Big Ten opponents. The Wildcats have won this tournament 10 straight times. They beat the Gophers 4-0 in the quarterfinals last year. Northwestern won the regular season meeting with the Gophers 7-0 and only dropped 16 games in the six singles matches, so Minnesota is definitely looking for a better showing. To Minnesota's credit, the Gophers played that match without Alessandra Ferrazzi and Magdalena Wiecha, who are both in the lineup today. Alex Seaton was also battling an injury that kept her out the following day.
We'll be playing outside today. There's a slight breeze and partly cloudy conditions. It's about 55 degrees and very comfortable. There were high winds in the forecast today, but they're holding off for now.
Minnesota's lineup will be the same as Thursday's match against Penn State.
No. 1 - Alessandra Ferrazzi and Karina Chiarelli
No. 2 - Tijana Koprivica and Jackie Sperling
No. 3 - Magdalena Wiecha and Alex Seaton
No. 1 - Chiarelli
No. 2 - Koprivica
No. 3 - Ferrazzi
No. 4 - Niltooli Wilkins
No. 5 - Wiecha
No. 6 - Seaton