The Wisconsin men’s tennis team will have their sights set on redemption when they take to the courts this Thursday in the Big Ten tournament.
Renewing their rivalry with the neighboring Iowa Hawkeyes, a team which Wisconsin narrowly lost to 4-3 earlier this season, the Badgers have the chance to face a strong Illinois team who they had on the ropes this past Sunday should they beat Iowa.
The pressure is on for Wisconsin though, as they have only won three matches since the loss to Iowa, going 3-10 in that span.
“The men are playing hard and looking to improve,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Van Emburgh said. “With the Big Ten tournament this weekend, hopefully we can win some matches and look to stay competitive.”
With desperation kicking in, it might be time for the Badgers to step their game up to keep their season alive.
Illinois delivered an outstanding performance keeping the Badgers at bay this past Sunday, but the effort and skill the players exerted to stay in competition may have elevated Wisconsin to a level of play that will allow them to defeat a tough Iowa team.
“I thought we were really competitive in doubles and in a couple of singles spots,” Emburgh said. “We left a couple of matches on the court, and guys were fighting and competing in those spots. To give credit to Illinois, this is probably one of their best teams in 10 years, and they’re playing some great tennis right now.”
Coming off that 4-0 defeat to the No. 3 Illinois Fighting Illini, Wisconsin will look to recapture the confidence they exhibited in the game when they play in Thursday’s match.
Iowa finished the season at 13-10, going 4-7 in conference play, but are fresh off a 7-0 win against Chicago State.
“Wisconsin is a deep team that is very experienced and we expect another close match,” Illinois head coach Ross Wilson said.
With both teams expecting a close match, similar to the one earlier in the season, extra emphasis will be placed on Wisconsin’s top players Josef Dodridge and Jakhongir Jalalov to lead from the No. 1 and 2 spots.
Dodridge, a freshman, will be in his first Big Ten tournament, as will four of his fellow teammates. With a relative lack of experience on the Badgers’ side, only Thursday will tell if the team is ready to handle the pressure of these big matches.
The ninth-seed Badgers will take to the courts at the Atkins Tennis Center in Champaign, Illinois against the eighth-seed Hawkeyes at 10 a.m. Thursday.
After ending the season with a tough loss to Purdue this past Sunday, the Wisconsin women’s tennis team will have a chance to redeem themselves at the Big Ten tournament at Northwestern as the 10th seed.
Through a hectic last day of regular season matches around the conference, it was decided that the Badgers and No. 38 Boilermakers will meet again this Thursday in the first round of the tournament.
“In a way, it’s annoying because we just played them,” Wisconsin head coach Tina Samara. “But at the same time, we just played them and we know exactly what to expect. We know what we’re up against, and I think we’ll do a better job.”
However, translating knowledge into success might be an uphill task.
The Badgers are just 1-8 on the season against ranked teams, consistently struggling against some of the NCAA’s best. Yet it’s noteworthy that four of the losses suffered in those matches came by margins of just 4-3 in the team score.
With such close defeats against similarly ranked opponents, the Badgers could prove to be very dangerous in this weekend’s tournament, despite holding the worst seed in the tournament.
But their first task at hand is the Boilermakers, and Wisconsin does not want to get ahead of itself.
Samara is looking to her older players to lead the team and regain their winning form, hoping that it will spark some of the younger players to follow suit.
“[Lauren Chypyha] again did a great job at No. 1 this Sunday” Samara said. “I was really happy to see that and for her to play the game that she has had success with just being more aggressive and being more like herself.”
If Chypyha, who won her singles match in two sets (6-2, 6-3) against Purdue, can repeat her singles performance and then provide a better doubles showing, the Badgers will have a legitimate shot to win.
Doubles play will be key this weekend. While Wisconsin lost both the first and third matches in Sunday’s meet, if the Badgers can build upon their performances and win just two of those matches to secure the doubles point, it could inspire the form needed to win the meet.
If Wisconsin wins against Purdue they will then matchup against the No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes, who are currently ranked No. 18 in the nation.
“We’ve struggled together and now we’re starting to build up. Hopefully we’ll do some damage,” sophomore Sydney Rider said.
Wisconsin and seventh-seed Purdue will play at 2 p.m. at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center in Evanston, Illinois.