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IU to face Michigan State in first round of Big Ten Tournament



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Sophomore Caitlin Bernard awaits her opponent’s serve during her 6-3, 6-7, 10-6 singles win over Purdue. The Hoosiers enter the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 10 seed. Sam House Buy Photos

IU is seeded No. 10 in the Big Ten Tournament and will face off against No. 7 seed Michigan State on Thursday at the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis. 

No. 8 seed and host Minnesota plays No. 9 seed Maryland at 10 a.m. and IU squares off against Michigan State at 12:30 p.m. as the second match of the tournament.

In March, IU lost 4-0 to Michigan State in East Lansing on the end of a three-game road swing to open up conference play. 

The Hoosiers lost the doubles point and sophomore Caitlin Bernard, senior Xiwei Cai and freshman Olga Zavarotnaya lost in straight sets.

Bernard said she didn’t think everyone played great that day, including herself. She said if IU brings the high level of energy it knows how to play with, the Hoosiers could beat Michigan State.

IU Coach Ramiro Azcui said the match against the Spartans this time around will be completely different. In a dual match, there are three doubles teams and six spots in the singles lineup for a total of nine matchups.

“We are gonna have at least seven out of nine different matchups this time around, compared to our regular season meeting,” Azcui said. “Once post season starts, you better throw records aside.”

Last year, the Hoosiers lost to Iowa 6-1 in the regular season and beat the Hawkeyes 4-2 in the first round of the conference tournament. IU was the No. 10 seed and Iowa was the No. 7 seed.

IU is in a position to upset another team in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament this year. 

The two juniors on the roster, Madison Appel and Natalie Whalen, each got singles wins in the tournament last year. After dropping the first set, both Appel and Whalen won the next two. Appel won 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 and Whalen won 2-6, 6-1, 6-0. 

Bernard played last year as well, but her match was unfinished because IU clinched the match when she was leading the third set 3-2.

Azcui said being the last ranked seed in the tournament is not an indication of how IU’s season has gone or how it will do in the conference tournament. IU finished the regular season 17-10, getting its most wins since the 2013-2014 season when it won 19 matches. 

IU lost to Tennessee, Notre Dame and Purdue 4-3 this season, and Azcui said those were winnable matches for his team and showed them that they are capable of playing with the stronger programs in the country.

If IU beats Michigan State, it will play No. 2 seed Michigan on Friday afternoon. 

“The tournament is going to be fun,” Azcui said. “They know they’re good enough to win matches, and I am excited to see what we can accomplish in the post season.”

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