Both tennis programs of the University of Wisconsin will see first day action at their respective conference tournaments, set to begin Thursday, after faring vastly different ends to their seasons.
Wisconsin men’s tennis (14-8 overall, 5-6 Big Ten) dropped seven of its last eight matches after its best start to a season, a 13-1 record, in program history. The losses have left the team a bit dazed and head coach Danny Westerman calling on his players to step up ahead of the tournament.
“The Big Ten is a very tough league and if you don’t capitalize on opportunities, teams will make you pay for it,” Westerman said after the team’s loss to Purdue Sunday. “Our guys just need to be better in tough situations.”
The Badgers are currently ranked No. 57 in the country and have impressive wins under their belt from earlier in the season, but have been flat as of late.
The team was swept in its last three matches and hasn’t won consecutive matches in a month. Despite first singles player Josef Dodridge going 1-6 in his last nine matches, Lamar Remy going 2-4 since being moved up to second singles and Chema Carranza going 0-3 since starting at third singles, the new front three have shown some bright spots.
All three will return to the Badgers next season, so the experience from the tournament will be invaluable.
The Badgers enter the tournament at eight-seed and will take on No. 9 Nebraska, who they defeated 4-3 in late March. The Cornhuskers dropped eight of their last 10 to end the season and find themselves in a similar situation to the Badgers, but have a ranked player in No. 93 Dusty Boyer at their disposal.
The match will be a solid gauge of the Badgers at this point in the season and a test of their mental fortitude after five consecutive losses, with first serve at 9 a.m. Thursday.
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Wisconsin women’s tennis (8-13 overall, 5-6 Big Ten), on the other hand, won four of its last five matches to end the season tied for sixth place in the Big Ten.
Two players are ranked singles players, No. 56 Lauren Chypyha and No. 92 Ekaterina Stepanova, and are joined by only Lauren Burich at sixth singles with winning records at their positions.
The Badgers’ recent success could carry them in the tournament, after the team won some surprising matches during the stretch. A 5-2 win over Indiana in Bloomington and a 4-3 over Maryland at home on senior day show the Badgers’ talent that has been overshadowed by their record at points this season.
Maria Avgerinos and Kendall Kirsch will be key to victory at third and fourth singles spots. Neither have managed the best of seasons thus far, Averginos is 4-12 while Kirsch is 7-14 in singles play, so winning points in these spots will be crucial to the Badgers’ success.
Wisconsin will face Minnesota (13-11 overall, 5-6 Big Ten) who they lost to 5-2 back in February. The Gophers, however, dropped four of their last five to end the season and will be looking to end their slide.
The season hasn’t been what many had hoped, given the outlook at the end of last season. With not much time left for Chypyha and the last chance to gain competitive experience before next season, the Badgers will look to progress as far as possible in the tournament.
Given the success Chypyha has had in her career at Madison thus far, the Badgers will be looking to send the senior off with fond memories this tournament. First serve will be at 10 a.m. Thursday.