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After dropping only eight matches throughout the season — three in Big Ten play — the Wisconsin men’s tennis team finished its regular season strong at the No. 27 spot nationally.
And it keeps getting better.
Improving to 7-3 in Big Ten play from 4-6 in 2009, the Badgers showed the Big Ten they were a force to be reckoned with.
Closing out its regular season only a few weeks ago, Wisconsin battled Ohio State in its most anticipated match of the season.
“I think it’s definitely one of those matches everybody looks forward to,” head coach Greg Van Emburgh said before the match. “They’re the team to beat. They’re one of the top teams in the country, and they’ve won the Big Ten the last five years now. I think it’s the only team we haven’t beaten since my tenure here.
“I think for most of the guys that have been here since I’ve been here, you know, they’re anxious to try and get a win over OSU.”
Although the Badgers dropped the match 4-3, they forced it down to the final match point. It came down to senior Moritz Baumann in a three-set nail-biter, who was just unable to find the strength to finish out the match after falling behind 3-4 in the last set.
Despite the disappointment, there were still some points of optimism.
“It doesn’t feel like a really bad loss because they are No. 4 in the country,” sophomore Patrick Pohlmann said after the loss. “I think its pretty good for us that we were so close to them — it was just one match that decided it. It just shows that we are right there with the teams and we can hang with them.”
The Buckeyes were the Badgers’ highest-ranked opponent all season, and despite the loss, the Badgers fought to 10 wins out of the 15 ranked opponents they faced this season. The most notable win was a 4-3 upset over then-No. 13 Florida State.
With a successful regular season record and a tight match against OSU, UW was feeling confident heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Earning a No. 4 seed, the Badgers had a first round bye before facing off against Minnesota. Only two weeks prior to the match, the Badgers downed the Golden Gophers 5-2.
While they knew they could beat the Golden Gophers, the Badgers were not going to overlook anything.
“Minnesota’s a great team,” Van Emburgh said at a press conference prior to the tournament. “We want to make sure we’re ready for them. We’re definitely not looking past them, and I believe we’ll have another shot at Ohio State if we get through into the semis there.”
After shutting out Minnesota 4-0 in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, Wisconsin got a second shot at Ohio State. Instead of the intense match UW fought for in the regular season, OSU shut out the team, 4-0.
Despite a disappointing end to their Big Ten tournament run, the Badgers aren’t calling it quits just yet. Sitting strong at No. 27 in the nation, the Badgers earned a spot in the NCAA championships for the fourth year in a row.
In the 64-team field, Wisconsin will face off against Notre Dame in the first round. During the regular season, the Badgers fell 4-3 to the Fighting Irish.
After winning the doubles point in the Feb. 28 match, the Badgers went 2-3 in singles, bringing the decision down to the last match point. With the Badgers’ hopes resting on his shoulders, Pohlmann fought Notre Dame’s Daniel Stahl into the third set where he was unable to claim the win for Wisconsin.
Although the match didn’t go in UW’s favor, Notre Dame now sits behind Wisconsin at No. 38 with a 15-12 record.
Yet, while the Badgers may have a better squad on paper at this point in the season, they know they can’t overlook anyone, especially a team they’ve previously lost to.
“I think the one thing we’ve really done well is we’ve never overlooked anybody,” Van Emburgh said. “I think this group has done a really good job with that.”