Entering Saturday on a three-game losing skid, the Michigan State women’s tennis team rebounded to pick up its first Big Ten victory 4-0 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Minnesota didn’t have enough players travel to field a third doubles team or a player at six singles. The Spartans capitalized, seizing the doubles point and cruising to two quick wins in singles to clinch the match.
“Those girls just got on top of them, got it done quickly,” MSU head women’s tennis coach Kim Bruno said. “That’s what you need to do.”
MSU’s top doubles tandem of sophomore Liisa Vehvilainen and junior Ayshe Can got the Spartans rolling early. Following a defeat in the first game, Vehvilainen and Can controlled the rest of the set, topping Minnesota graduate student Zoey Weil and freshman Anet Koskel by a score of 6-2.
“Liisa and I are really, really close and we’ve been playing together since the fall,” Can said. “Staying aggressive, just doing what we’ve been doing, worked in the end today.”
Bruno said when Vehvilainen and Can are executing, they’re fun to watch and equally as tough to beat.
“When those two are getting forward and hitting volleys, I think they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Bruno said.
Up 1-0 to start, the Spartans needed just two wins in singles to emerge victorious.
MSU freshman Marley Lambert stole the show in singles, dominating Minnesota junior Zeyneb Sarioglan in straight sets, 6-0 and 6-1.
Bruno had high praise for Lambert, saying her success Saturday was a product of preparation and execution.
“I think that’s one of (Marley’s) best matches this season,” Bruno said. “She wasn’t going for too much too soon.”
Needing just one more singles win to finish off the Golden Gophers, Can came through once more. Following a tight-knit, 6-4 victory in the first set, she began firing on all cylinders, burying Koskel in an early set-two hole and never looking back. The MSU junior took the second set 6-0 to earn the Spartans their first conference win.
Can was pleased with her performance, yet hungry for more success down the road.
“It was really nice to clinch for the team and also get a Big Ten win,” Can said. “Now, I want more.”
The win Saturday moved MSU to 8-7 on the year and 1-3 in Big Ten play. Looking ahead, Bruno hopes the Spartans can increase the pressure they put on other teams and sharpen their defensive mindset.
“We’ve got to be better of making our opponents suffer a little bit and not letting them off the hook too easily,” Bruno said. “We need to be better in our neutralizing points. We can’t just blow those.”
MSU turns right around to play the No. 17 Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday at the MSU Indoor Tennis Center. The first serve is slated for 11 a.m.
“We’re gonna savor this one and hopefully continue the feeling heading into tomorrow,” Bruno said.
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