Gophers looking for pair of wins

by Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota men’s tennis team took its first step up the Big Ten ladder Wednesday against unranked Iowa to begin its weeklong home stand.

Starting this afternoon, the 36th-ranked Gophers (13-6 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) look to take two more big steps against increasingly tough competition beginning with No. 63 Northwestern (7-12, 2-5) today and concluding with No. 45 Wisconsin (11-9, 3-4) on Sunday.

Coach Geoff Young, whose team finds itself in the middle of the Big Ten pack, said at the close of the Iowa match that the win was a good one to get out of the way before the tough weekend.

“We’ll have to play better this weekend if we want to sweep,” he said. “I expect us to rise to the level of our competition.”

Minnesota has done fairly well in the confines of the Baseline Tennis Center this season, compiling a 5-3 mark. The Gophers might need that mark to rise to 7-3 in their final home weekend if a NCAA berth is to be gained.

Senior Sion Wilkins, who recently was inserted into the No. 6 singles spot, said the team realizes the importance of the weekend and what its implications are for the remainder of the season.

“If we lose just one match, it will make it a lot harder to do what we set out to do every year,” he said. “And that is to make the NCAAs.”

Fellow senior Nich Edlefsen, who picked up both a doubles and singles victory on Wednesday, said he hopes last week’s victory over the Hawkeyes has the team back on the winning track.

“It’s important to keep digging ourselves out of that midseason slump,” he said. “We can’t afford to come out flat, and I don’t think we will.”

Women’s team hits road

The women’s tennis team sits on the NCAA bubble due to a season of tight defeats, injuries and tough competition.

It doesn’t get much easier this weekend as the 57th-ranked Gophers (9-8 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) take on powerhouse No. 9 Northwestern (13-5, 6-0) on Saturday, before heading to Wisconsin to face the unranked Badgers (4-13, 0-7) on Sunday.

After beginning the season with a 0-4 mark in the conference, Minnesota has rebounded in recent weeks, winning two straight matches against unranked opponents Penn State and Michigan State 4-3 and 5-2, respectively.

With the singles lineup struggling to various degrees throughout the conference season, doubles play, which has posted a 4-2 mark in Big Ten play, has continued to keep the team on the NCAA bubble.

Coach Tyler Thomson, whose team has already surpassed last year’s win total and matched its Big Ten victory count, said the match with Northwestern is obviously a big test for the Gophers as the conference season winds down.

“We’re on a bit of a run now, and I’ve seen some better tennis from this team,” he said. “We’ll just need to take any momentum we’ve gained into Northwestern and see what we can do.”