The IU men’s tennis team will have the opportunity to bring their win percentage back over .500 and pick up two ranked wins this weekend when they take the court for two home matches.
The Hoosiers will face the No. 31 Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday before taking on the No. 46 Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday. A win in either match would be the first ranked win for IU all season.
Minnesota has been regularly ranked around the No. 30 slot for most of the year, but Wisconsin is fairly new to their position, having climbed into the rankings for the first time during the last week of March.
IU hasn’t been in the rankings at any point this season and has largely struggled against ranked opponents so far. Regardless, the difficulty of being in the Big Ten, a conference with six top 50 ranked teams, is a challenge that IU coach Jeremy Wurtzman said he is ready to face.
“We want them to be ranked, we want them to be as high as they can possibly be,” Wurtzman said. “We’ve played a lot of top teams very close and we want that opportunity again.”
IU’s first opportunity will come against a Minnesota squad with three nationally ranked singles players and a ranked doubles team. The only conference match the Gophers have lost this year was last week’s 5-2 defeat to top three ranked Ohio State.
Following that match, the Hoosiers have a showdown with the up-and-coming Badgers of Wisconsin. Before their loss to Ohio State last week as well, the Badgers were riding a five match win streak in which they picked up their first road win of the season. Overall though, Wisconsin is 1-6 when playing away from Madison.
Doubles play will be one of the main challenges IU will face against Wisconsin, as the Badgers have the No. 2 ranked doubles team in the nation as well as the No. 89 squad.
Meanwhile, IU has shown steady improvement in doubles this season, winning their last two doubles points and five of their last eight. Wurtzman said he sees his team’s success in doubles as a sign of things to come.
“Just like the doubles points are starting to fall our way, we feel like these matches are going to fall our way,” Wurtzman said. “Once we can get one under our belt, I feel like we’re going to be able to get more.”
With or without the doubles point, the overall matches are largely decided by the singles play of each team. Although IU doesn’t have any ranked players, the Hoosier lineup has shown potential throughout the season.
“They know we’re a dangerous team,” freshman Andrew Redding said of this weekend’s opponents. “They’re going to be out looking for a fight.”
Redding in particular has started to prove to be dangerous himself, as he remained undefeated in collegiate singles play with two conference wins last weekend.
Although the first five singles slots have been fairly regular for the Hoosiers this year, Wurtzman has used a platoon of freshman Brandon Lam, junior Afonso Salgado and now Redding in the six spot.
“We’re very pleased with the way he’s playing,” Wurtzman said of Redding. “I don’t think anyone has a guarantee but he definitely proved himself this past weekend.”
Ultimately, these two upcoming matches could have a big effect on the rest of IU’s season, as two wins would put the Hoosiers over the .500 mark in overall and conference record. Some players also see this weekend as a large factor in their postseason hopes.
“We have a decent shot of making the NCAA tournament,” Redding said. “I’d really love to do that and I think it’s still possible this season.”
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