After a pair of close 4-3 losses on the road against conference foes Purdue and Indiana, the Wisconsin women’s tennis team has an opportunity to right the ship as the Badgers hit the road once again to Ohio State and Penn State this weekend.
The two road bumps give Wisconsin a 2-4 record in the conference (11-9 overall), which puts the club in a tie for sixth place in the Big Ten.
According to head coach Brian Fleishman, the Badgers must remain positive if they want to improve their conference record and give themselves a chance to make it to the national tournament at the end of the season.
“We don’t want to sit there and dwell on the result of the weekend,” Fleishman said. “We already know that it’s out there. We need to move forward and prepare for Ohio State.”
On Friday, Wisconsin can begin to turn around its season by exacting revenge on the Buckeyes, a team that beat the Badgers 5-2 in Madison last year.
Ohio State (11-9, 4-2) sits two games ahead of Wisconsin for fourth in the conference, turning this weekend’s matchup into a must-win if the Badgers hope to catch them in the standings.
“Every week is the same importance for us because we need to try and get as many wins as we can,” junior Aleksandra Markovic said.
Sunday, Wisconsin will visit Penn State in another must-win Big Ten match.
Penn State (6-12, 1-5) is a team Wisconsin must capitalize on, as the Nittany Lions have struggled this year and sit ninth in the conference.
Last season, Wisconsin beat Penn State at University Park, Penn. 5-2. Markovic and the rest of her teammates are confident they can recreate the success they had against the Nittany Lions once again.
“I think that we’ll beat them,” Markovic said. “We’ve beat them the last two years, so I expect to this year again.”
At the beginning of the season, the Badgers set a goal to finish in the top four in the Big Ten and qualify for the national tournament.
But inconsistent results over the last few weeks have put achieving those goals into question.
Markovic believes the team can turn the season around by controlling what goes on between the ears.
“It depends how focused we are, and sometimes I feel like we give more energy and more focus and sometimes it just slips away,” Markovic said. “I think we just need to play point by point and not think about the overall match because sometimes we just get too nervous, and we want to win so bad that we just let our emotions take over.”
Freshman Nicky Stracar believes, in certain cases, that the reason for the team’s struggles is easier to clarify.
“Some of the times when we have lost badly or when we were shut out, I think the teams were just better than us,” Stracar said.
In either case, the Badgers hope to end their inconsistent play with last week’s matches and move on to this weekend and grab two big conference wins.
Fleishman tends to agree with Markovic’s assessment of the importance of mental toughness in his team.
“This part of the season you’ve got to be tough,” Fleishman said. “Everybody’s a little banged up; everybody’s a little sore, it has been a long season. Every team is like that, it’s not just Wisconsin, so which teams going to be tougher? Which individual players are going to be tougher? We’ve got to be tougher than the other teams.”