It would be easy for Iowa to write off Minnesota's women's tennis team in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament today in Evanston, Ill.
The 10th-seeded Gophers, (3-18, 1-9 Big Ten) after winning the Big Ten title last season, have had to endure a long, challenging season with a young, inexperienced team.
But coach Luciano Battaglini said Wednesday he knows what they need to do to beat seventh-seeded Iowa at 2 p.m. today.
"We need to play like we have nothing to lose," he said.
Battaglini added that it will take a sense of confidence to beat the 40th-ranked Hawkeyes. He noted there is a thin line between playing sloppily with "nothing to lose" and also knowing one has a chance to win.
"We also have to have the mentality that we can be successful," he said. "We played a very tough match against these guys earlier in the season and we have come a long way since then."
The Gophers came close to beating the Hawkeyes on Feb. 28. The Gophers' 4-3 loss came down to one three-set match at the Baseline Tennis Center.
Minnesota's top two singles spots were as strong as they have been all season. Senior Angela Buergis defeated Meg Racette at No. 1, 6-1, 6-3. At No. 2, Nischela Reddy beat Hillary Mintz, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.
Freshman Lindsay Risebrough was able to outlast her opponent at No. 3 singles. She won her first set against Chelsea Glynn 7-5, but let Glynn stick around, losing 5-7 in the second. Risebrough was able to rally in the third set and won handily 6-1.
The entire match was then decided in the third set of Ida Malmberg's No. 3 singles match. She took the second set to push a third against Anastasia Zhukova, but lost a close 6-4 third set.
Battaglini said Wednesday the Gophers will use exactly the same lineup as they did against the Hawkeyes on Feb. 28.
"I think it (the lineup) will maximize our strengths against them," Battaglini.
One of the Gophers' strengths is the top of the lineup, which has been strong most of the season.
61st-ranked Buergis and Reddy make up the top two spots. The two showed how potent they are this last weekend, both winning at their positions against Penn State and Ohio State.
"We showed this weekend how strong our No. 1 and No. 2 are," Battaglini said. "We can really surprise some people."
Buergis said Wednesday that she thinks the Gophers have built up a better work ethic since the beginning of their rough season.
"It took some time to progress," she said. "But we have come together with a better work ethic that has developed over the season."
Whether the Gophers have enough to upset the Hawkeyes this afternoon, the players and coaches said they feel they must stay balanced.
"We have nothing to lose," Reddy said. "But at the same time we know we have to play well to show how far we have come."
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