Champaign-Urbana, Ill. – The Nebraska women's tennis team surged to a 4-3 victory over No. 8 seed Minnesota on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament at the Atkins Tennis Center on Thursday.
Nebraska set the early tone, as the Husker No. 2 doubles team of Claire Reifeis and Hayley Haakenstad rolled to a swift 6-3 win over Minnesota's Tina Kreinis and Annemarie Emme. Reifeis and Haakenstad - both freshmen - improved to 13-4 together on the season.
Nebraska's No. 1 doubles pair of Mary Hanna and Paula Del Cueto Castillo earned their first win of the day with an impressive 6-2 victory over Caitylyn Merzbacher and Mehvish Safdar. The win for Hanna and Del Cueto Castillo clinched the team doubles point for the Huskers, but both were far from finished in contributing to the Nebraska team win.
Hanna's second win of the morning came at No. 4 singles, where the senior swept her way to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Emme to give the Husker her 125th combined career win. It also gave Nebraska a 3-0 team lead, after Husker freshman M'Balia Bangoura blasted her way to a quick 6-1, 6-0 victory over Minnesota's Camila Vargas Gomez at the No. 5 spot to open singles play.
But Nebraska's 3-0 lead was short-lived, as the Gophers rallied for wins at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 6 singles.
Husker sophomore Vasanti Shinde fought hard at No. 1 singles, but fell 6-2, 6-4 to Caroline Ryba. Reifeis fell 6-2, 6-3 to Kreinis at No. 2 singles, while Haakenstad dropped a 6-3, 6-3 decision to Merzbacher at No. 6.
With the match and Nebraska's season hanging in the balance, Del Cueto Castillo dug deep. After dropping her first set at No. 3 singles, 1-6, to Maja Vujic, Del Cueto Castillo rallied in a big way. She battled her way to a 6-4 win in the second set before storming to a 6-1 win in the decisive third set to give herself the win and the Huskers the match.
The dramatic victory for the sophomore from Sevilla, Spain, propelled the Huskers into the quarterfinals to face top-seeded and No. 4 nationally ranked Ohio State on Friday at 10 a.m.
Fans who wish to stay up to date can follow the Huskers on Twitter, @HuskersWTennis or by catching recaps on Huskers.com. Special for the Big Ten Tournament, Illinois Women's Tennis home page will have live stats and live video for most of the remaining matches this week.
1. Mary Hanna/Paula Del Cueto Castillo (NEB) def. Caitlyn Merzbacher/Mehvish Safdar (MINN) 6-2
- Claire Reifeis/Hayley Haakenstad (NEB) def. Tina Kreinis/Annemarie Emme (MINN) 6-3
- Caroline Ryba/Cammy Frei (MINN) vs. M'Balia Bangoura/Vasanti Shinde (NEB) 5-2, unfinished
1. Caroline Ryba (MINN) def. Vasanti Shinde (NEB) 6-2, 6-4
- Tina Kreinis (MINN) def. Claire Reifeis (NEB) 6-2, 6-3
- Paula Del Cueto Castillo (NEB) def. Maja Vujic (MINN) 1-6, 6-4, 6-1
- Mary Hanna (NEB) def. Annemarie Emme (MINN) 6-2, 6-4
- M'Balia Bangoura (NEB) def. Camila Vargas Gomez (MINN) 6-1, 6-0
- Caitlyn Merzbacher (MINN) def. Hayley Haakenstad (NEB) 6-3, 6-3
Order of Finish: Doubles (2,1) Singles (5, 4, 6, 2, 1, 3)