The MSU women's tennis team is trying to rebuild its program.
Senior Keri Thompson has gone from the No. 5 singles spot as a freshman to the national rankings.
She hit No. 100 in March.
"We took a local kid and put her in the top 100 in college," MSU head coach Tim Bauer proudly said on Wednesday. "That's such a great accomplishment for her."
That's one of the Spartans' small steps. The team won 10 straight matches this season and was ranked No. 62 in the country April 5. But a Big Ten conference record of 1-9 doesn't show the progress the program has made, Bauer said.
"It's difficult to understand," he said. "We've lost a few matches by the skin of our teeth. We're better than we've even been and our conference record just doesn't reflect that."
But with a young team, the experience gained this season could pay off in the future, freshman Christine Bader said.
"It's been a really long season," Bader said. "But it's been really fun, and we've all gained a lot of experience playing ranked teams."
The No. 10 seeded Spartans (11-11 overall) are hoping to pass through another barrier at 2 p.m. today in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament against rival No. 40, and No. 7 seeded Michigan at the MSU Outdoor Tennis Courts.
MSU hasn't won a tournament game since it started in 1996.
When MSU faced the Wolverines in March, Bader was the only Spartan to pull out a win at the No. 3 singles spot. But the team believes it can turn things around and have a chance to win.
"All of us have a chance to win," said sophomore Sarah Andrews.
Thompson will play the No. 1 singles spot, hoping to knock off U-M's Michelle DaCosta, who Thompson lost to earlier this season, 6-4, 6-3.
"She's playing best when she's playing in attack style," he said about Thompson.
If the Spartans knock off the Wolverines, they would move on to No. 2 seed Indiana, which beat MSU 6-1 this season.
The 11 teams will invade East Lansing starting today for the tournament that features seven nationally ranked teams and will be played out on the MSU Outdoor Tennis Court through Sunday.
No. 5 ranked Northwestern comes in as the favorite with an undefeated record in the conference. The Wildcats also have won six straight tournament crowns.
Five Wildcats went undefeated in singles competition this season and has the No. 1 doubles team in the nation.
But the Wildcats will have to hold off No. 34 Indiana, No. 38 Wisconsin and No. 49 Purdue.
Indiana features the duo of Dominika Walterova and Sarah Batty, who went 9-1 in Big Ten play. And Wisconsin features a solid team led by No. 108 Caitlin Burke.
The depth of the conference has been strong all year, leaving the Spartans battling for each point all season.
"There has been no easy match," Andrews said.