Minn. trying to get back into NCAA picture

After dropping to 0-3 in the conference, the Gophers have some work ahead of them.

If the Minnesota women’s tennis team wants to achieve its preseason goal of qualifying for the NCAA tournament, the Gophers need to start picking up quality wins, and sooner rather than later.

The Gophers, now ranked No. 57 in the ITA collegiate tennis rankings, are on the outside looking in at an NCAA at-large berth after dropping a pair of conference duals at Ohio State and Indiana last weekend.

Those two losses, both by scores of 6-1, combined with a home loss to Iowa on March 2 has Minnesota at 0-3 in the Big Ten entering a weekend in which the Gophers host Penn State and No. 29-ranked Michigan at the Baseline Tennis Center. Both Saturday’s and Sunday’s dual start at 11 a.m.

“As with any match in the Big Ten this year, no team is guaranteed a win or a defeat, as is the case this weekend,” coach Tyler Thomson said.

Minnesota, which started the season 9-1, would like nothing more than a clean-sweep weekend to get its name back into tournament discussion.

“We talk about seizing the opportunities that we have and Michigan is another opportunity (to get a signature win),” senior Danielle Mousseau said.

“And Penn State’s a competitive team. I think the rest of the Big Ten, no match is going to be easy.”

Whether spoken about or not, Thomson said he believes his team understands it needs to pick up quality wins in the Big Ten – like those that present themselves this weekend – to appeal to the NCAA tournament committee.

And it appears his players do understand.

Mousseau, who said she believes the Gophers will need to be ranked at least in the mid-40s to garner NCAA tournament consideration, said the team knows what it needs to do in the coming weeks.

“We have to beat teams ahead of us but also make sure we aren’t losing to teams we should beat,” Mousseau said.

With five of their next seven matches at home, the Gophers – who are 7-1 at Baseline this season – have a chance to make up for their early conference struggles.

“I definitely think we typically play our best matches at home. It will definitely be in our favor to play (matches) on our home (courts),” Mousseau said.

Men hit the road

After dropping a tightly contested dual to Indiana (4-3) last weekend at the Baseline Tennis Center, the Minnesota men’s tennis team takes to the road.

The Gophers, now 2-12 and 0-2 in the Big Ten, play a pair of conference matches this weekend. At 3 p.m. today coach Geoff Young’s team challenges Penn State in State College, Penn. On Sunday, Minnesota plays Michigan at noon in Ann Arbor.

Young said he expects his team to play much more forcefully this weekend.

“I expect these two matches to be pretty tough matches, because both are good teams, but I expect our team to play better this weekend too.”

“I think our team will play more aggressively this weekend,” he said.