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U's Toledo faces tough challenge in NCAA tennis tournament

Leandro Toledo's tennis career at Minnesota will come to an end this week -- and it's been quite a ride for him.

The senior from Hamburg, Germany, has 97 wins, tied for ninth in program history. And he was recently amed the Big Ten's Player of the Year.

He is ranked No. 22 nationally, but has a tough opening match at Baylor in Waco, Texas. At 2:30 p.m. he will play senior Denis Nguyen of Harvard who has beaten him twice, 6-3, 7-5 on Nov. 7 amd 6-2, 6-4 on Feb. 21. Nguyen, of Anaheim, advanced to the NCAA semifinals a year ago. Toledo to the Round of 16.

Both lost to Alex Sarkissian of Peperdine a year ago. Toldedo by a score of 7-6 (1), 6-2.

Nguyen is ranked No. 34 and is 18-13. Toldeo is 19-8 this spring and led the Gophers to a three-way tie for the Big Ten regular-season title with a 10-1 mark.

Toledo also won the International Tennis Association's most improved tennis player award among seniors in the Central Region.

He's the Gophers' first four-time all-conference pick and last year, with his NCAA finish, became Minnesota's first All-America player since 2002.

He is 19-8 this spring at No. 1 singles.

Nguyen led Harvard to the ECAC title this spring.

U softball: Crazy finish to a great season

In hindsight, the 20-0 loss to Iowa in the Big Ten softball tournament proved oh-so-costly to the Gophers.

It probably ruined their chances to host a regional for the second year in a row. Minesota was No. 9 in one national poll, had compiled a sterling 20-3 record in the Big Ten to finish a game back of conference champion Michigan -- two of three losses were to Wolverines, one to Nebraska -- and had 46 wins overall.

Yet, they were send packing for the NCAA regionals. To Tucson, no less. Where almost nobody survives.

Sixteen teams were deemed better than the Gophers and got to host regionals. And, boy, is that important.

Last year, when the Gophers hosted a regional, they won it and got to their first Super Regional.

This year, of the 16 top seeds, 14 won their regionals. Only No. 15 James Madison and No. 16 Notre Dame lost..

The Gophers  after losing to 10th seed Iowa in the conference tournament -- got send to Arizona, which is considered softball royalty.

The Wildcats made their 29th consecutive NCAA appearance this year -- the longest current streak in the country.

They have advanced to 22 World Series (the Gophers none) and won eight national title, the first in 1991, the most recent in 2007.

Of the 21 regionals they have hosted in Tucson, they have won 20. Sure, the Gophers gave them a scare on Sunday. Winning the first game 5-2 on Paige Palkovich's grand slam in the bottom of the seventh (yes, the Gophers were the home team in that game).

And then, in the second game, the Gophers took a 6-4 lead in the top of the seventh on Taylor LeMay's three-run shot. But Minnesota lost 7-6 in eight innings.

Only Louisiana-Lafayette has won a regoinal at Tucson, in 2004, although 62 other teams have tried through the years.

The moral of the story for softball teams: Stay home if you can.

That said, the announced on the Arizona-Gophers live stream were surprised Minnesota was there. They thought the Gophers' record should have gotten them a regional and said so.

A win over Iowa probably would have clinched it, a win in the semifinals over Nebraska undoubtedly would have because a loss in the title game, to No. 3 Michigan, wouldn't have mattered much.


The Gophers lose seven seniors, including four who were key players. First baseman Kaitlyn Richardson was a four-year starter, at third the first three seasons and at first this year. She hit .374, second on team, with 10 HRs and 47 RBI.

Shortstop Tyler Walker missed the last month of the season with a hip injury and she was missed. She was the Gophers' leadoff hitter and at the center of the defense. She also led the team in RBI with 50. The four-year starter hit .356 with 10 HRs.

Hannah Granger and Erica Meyer were outfielders, in right and center, respectively, both with good sticks. Granger hit .327 with 11 HRs and 49 RBI, Meyer .315 with 7 HRs and 34 RBI.

But the Gophers can build around pitcher Sara Groenewegen, a righty, who was 31-7 as a sophomore with a 1.67 ERA. She is among 10 finalists for national player of the year. She also led the U with 12 homers and had 44 RBI.

Then there is Danielle Parlich, a second baseman who is up for national freshman of the year. She hit a team-high .400 with 41 RBI.

Sam Macken returns at third base, Taylor LeMay at catcher and Palkovich in left field.

The Gophers have signed three players for next season.

One is shortstop Maddie Houlihan of Benilde-St. Margaret's who is hitting .655 with eight homers, 34 RBI and 20 steals.

Another is Anoka outfielder Taylor Chell, who hit .510 as a junior. Her team is 18-1-1.

And the third is outfielder/catcher Jessia Isham of Salem, Oregon.

The Gophers finished 49-11, tying a program record for wins. They also were 20-3 in true road games (as opposed to road games at neutral sites) -- after losing two to Arizona -- and 20-3 in the Big Ten.

TV Listings

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