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IU to close out the regular season on the road



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Senior Xiwei Cai celebrates after winning her singles match against Ohio State 5-7, 6-3, 11-9. Cai took the only point for the Hoosiers during their 1-6 loss to OSU. IU will play Maryland and Rutgers on the road this weekend with Big Ten Tournament implications on the line. Sam House Buy Photos

IU will play its final two regular season matches on the road against Maryland and Rutgers on Friday and Sunday.

The Hoosiers are tied with the Terrapins for ninth place in the Big Ten standings with a 3-6 record in conference play.

Rutgers, on the other hand, is in last place with an 0-9 conference record. 

The top 10 teams in the standings at the conclusion of the regular season will compete in the conference tournament.

Iowa and Penn State own a 2-7 conference record, trailing IU by one game. IU defeated Penn State in the Hoosiers' final home match of the season, which proved to be an important win for IU in terms of the conference standings. It gave the Hoosiers an edge in qualifying for the conference tournament. 

Junior Natalie Whalen said IU put a lot of pressure on the Penn State match because the team knew it was a deciding factor for a top-10 position in the standings. Whalen said these next two matches will be a matter of trying to secure the lowest seed possible for IU in the Big Ten Tournament. 

“We definitely need to win one of the two,” Whalen said. “Our intentions have always been to win, but now that the tournament is so close, winning becomes more urgent. The matches are three hours of pure focus on doing our job. We need as little distraction as possible and focus on the task at hand — winning the match.”

IU Coach Ramiro Azcui said his team is locked in right now, and he liked the vibe he's gotten from his players since the Penn State victory. IU is responding to the challenge of qualifying for the tournament, and Azcui said his team knows the importance of the next two matches and are focused on getting wins. 

IU and Maryland currently share ninth place in the standings, and Azcui said the match will be tough because both teams are fighting for the same thing — a win for better seeding. 

IU has played most of its matches indoors this spring due to cold weather, but the match at Maryland is expected to be played outside. Azcui said he is excited because he thinks his team plays slightly better outdoors.

After Maryland on Friday, IU plays Rutgers in its regular season finale Sunday.

Rutgers is the worst team in the conference, still seeking its first conference win. It's exactly why Azcui said IU cannot relax in its match against the Scarlet Knights.

“We are playing them on their senior weekend,” Azcui said. “They know it’s their final match for their seniors, and Rutgers wants nothing more than to send its seniors out the right way. I think IU is the stronger team, but I expect high intensity from Rutgers, and it will try to get its first conference win on senior day.”

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