A week ago, playing as the favorite, the upstart Gophers women’s tennis team held off two tough opponents in close matches to extend its winning streak to eight.
This week, Minnesota got a taste of its own medicine.
After defeating unranked Michigan State 5-2 on the road Saturday, the No. 26 Gophers fell 6-1 Sunday to the No. 20 Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich.
It was reality check for a Minnesota team that jumped from being unranked at the beginning of the season to being the fourth-ranked team in the Big Ten.
“To win a match like today, I think everybody needs to be very, very impactful in a positive way with their body language and their attitude,” head coach Tyler Thomson said. “We weren’t quite as good as we could be today.”
Minnesota fell behind 6-0 as a team before Julia Courter (No. 5 singles) won a third-set super tiebreaker to avoid the sweep.
The Gophers (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten) hung with the Big Ten’s defending champions in all but two of their matches Sunday. They began the match with a major upset at No. 1 doubles, as Natallia Pintusava and Magdalena Wiecha defeated Michigan’s seventh-ranked duo of Emina Bektas and Brooke Bolender 8-6.
But the Wolverines (10-5, 3-0 Big Ten) won the second and third doubles matches to earn the doubles point, and Bektas and Bolender won at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, respectively.
Ranked No. 10 in the nation in singles, Bektas crushed Pintusava 6-1, 6-1 to improve to 12-1 on the season. Pintusava lost her first singles match since Feb. 18.
Bolender handed Minnesota’s Alexa Palen her first loss of the season (12-1) with a 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory at No. 2 singles.
The Gophers’ Doron Muravnik and Tereza Brichacova — two other players who have started well this spring — ran into brick walls against the Big Ten’s second-ranked team. Muravnik won the first set before falling in a super tiebreaker at No. 3 singles, and Brichacova blew an early-second-set lead to lose 6-2, 6-3 at No. 4 singles.
Courter’s win at fifth singles was her first in her last four matches. She defeated No. 106 Sam Critser 6-7 (6), 6-2, 1-0 (10-8).
On Saturday against Michigan State, Courter and Aria Lambert (No. 6 singles) were the only two singles players to lose. Courter and Brichacova lost at No. 3 doubles, but Minnesota salvaged the doubles point with wins at the first two doubles spots.
“Quite frankly, Michigan State was one of our worst outings in terms of focus,” Thomson said. “We were just a better team than them.”
Men upset Michigan to win seventh straight
The Gophers men’s tennis team has had a lot more recent experience in big matches than the women’s team — and it showed Sunday.
No. 44 Minnesota upset No. 28 Michigan 4-3 at Baseline Tennis Center to win its seventh consecutive match and improve to 3-0 in Big Ten play (8-3 overall).
The Gophers won the doubles point for an eighth consecutive match and finished off the Wolverines with wins at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 singles.
“This was our first match outside in a long time,” head coach Geoff Young said. “I think the guys were able to realize that to win points outside, you have to work harder, and you have to be more patient and at times a little smarter.”
Phillip Arndt defeated Michigan’s Alex Petrone to earn his second consecutive straight-set win at No. 3 singles. He had previously lost four matches in a row playing at Nos. 1 and 2 singles.
“It’s just been [about] working really, really hard in practice and listening to the coaches,” Arndt said Sunday of his turnaround. “Today I did just that — I was hitting aggressive, and I was hitting deep, and I think that’s what’s been helping me a lot.”
Minnesota swept unranked Michigan State on Friday, earning four three-set wins in singles.
Rok Bonin rallied for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 1 singles, and No. 88 Leandro Toledo cruised past the Spartans’ Ronnie Hulewicz 6-2, 6-3.
Bonin lost a close match to No. 10 Evan King of Michigan on Sunday, ending a six-match winning streak, while Toledo defeated Shaun Bernstein to win his seventh consecutive match.
Julian Dehn defeated the Wolverines’ Michael Zhu on Sunday to post his third consecutive win.
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