After defeating Illinois and Iowa in its final weekend of regular season play, the Minnesota women's tennis team heads to Michigan's Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. for the Big Ten tournament.
Last week's pair of wins vaulted the Gophers from tenth place to a tie for seventh in the conference, leaving Minnesota with the eighth seed in the tournament and a rematch with the Hawkeyes at 9 a.m. tomorrow in the first round. The winner will face tenth-ranked and No. 1 seed Michigan at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Minnesota beat Iowa 6-1 on Senior Day last Sunday to close out the regular season, improving its all-time record against Iowa to 33-21. After going 2-0 in doubles against Iowa in the fall, the Gophers recorded their first doubles sweep of the season and first doubles competition win in Big Ten play to start off the match.
Alessandra Ferrazzi, Magdalena Wiecha, Doron Muravnik, Yuliana Umanets, and Mariana Spilca each won in singles to make it 6-1. Alexa Palen lost to Sonja Molnar in three sets at No. 1, playing at the position for the second time in her career. Molnar improved 3-0 in her career against UM and Minnesota's regular No. 1, 83rd-ranked Natallia Pintusava, was out of the lineup.
Potential second-round opponent Michigan defeated Minnesota 7-0 on April 2 at the Baseline Tennis Center. Umanets was out of the lineup that day, as was Palen, who played in 21 of the team's 22 matches and Wiecha, who missed only one other match all year. The Gophers are 15-23 all-time against Michigan and is winless it their last eight meetings with the Wolverines.
Iowa's Molnar is ranked 103rd in singles and is 29th in doubles when paired with Jessica Young. Michigan has four ranked singles players and four ranked doubles tandems. The Big Ten as a whole has 13 ranked singles players, eight ranked doubles combinations and four teams ranked in the top 75 including the Wolverines, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue.
If the Gophers can advance past Iowa and Michigan, they will play in the tournament semifinals beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The championship is on at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network on tape delay on Saturday, May 7 at 9 a.m.
Playing The Best: Minnesota played 13 ranked teams during the season and posted a 1-12 record in those matches (rankings at the time of the match). The Gophers beat No. 60 Michigan State and lost to No. 3 North Carolina, No. 8 Michigan, No. 23 Northwestern, No. 24 Oklahoma, No. 36 Nebraska, No. 39 North Carolina State, No. 43 William & Mary, No. 53 Marshall, No. 63 Missouri, No. 64 Ohio State, No., 66 Purdue and No. 66 Wisconsin.
Close Contests: Minnesota played eight matches this season that had a final score of 4-3. The Gophers won three of those matches (Marquette, Michigan State and Illinois) and lost five (No. 53 Marshall, No. 39 North Carolina State, No. 63 Missouri, North Carolina-Wilmington and Penn State).
Finishing Strong: The Gophers ended the year on a three-match home winning streak and a two-match overall winning streak. Minnesota closed out its home schedule at Baseline Tennis Center with consecutive wins against Michigan State (April 3), Illinois (April 22) and Iowa (April 24).
Revolving Lineup: Nine of Minnesota's 10 roster players saw action in the spring with the exception being Emilie Renault. The Gophers battled injuries all year long and played only nine matches this season with Natallia Pintusava (played all 15 of her matches at No. 1), Alessandra Ferrazzi (played 14 of her 17 matches at No. 2) and Yuliana Umanets (played five of her 14 matches at No. 3) all in the lineup at the same time. Minnesota was 3-6 in those matches.
Double Dip: Minnesota used 19 different doubles combinations in 22 matches this spring, going 21-45 overall on the spring. Mariana Spilca was a part of the two most common doubles tandems for the Gophers this season, going 6-4 with Alexa Palen and 4-4 with Magdalena Wiecha. Palen and Alessandra Ferrazzi began the spring as the 84th-ranked doubles combination in the nation and went 1-4 together.
Go It Covered: Magdalena Wiecha and Alexa Palen played every singles position this year at least once with the exception of No. 6 singles. Wiecha, who led the team with a 10-10 record this season, was 0-3 at first singles, 0-1 second singles, 4-2 at third singles, 4-2 at third singles and 2-2 at fifth singles. Doron Muravnik competed in matches at three, four, five and six. Palen played in 21 out of 22 matches this year, Wiecha played in 20 and Muravnik played in 19.
Sixth Sense: Minnesota was winless at No. 6 singles for the first 15 matches of the season, but the Gophers rallied at the bottom of the lineup and won five of their final seven matches, including the last four. Doron Muravnik snapped the losing streak for the Gophers when she beat Michigan State's Dana Guentert 6-3, 6-4 on April 3 as the Gophers erased a 3-0 deficit and won the match 4-3. Muravnik won two more matches at six singles before Mariana Spilca ended the season with a pair of wins at the sixth slot.