Gophers go head-to-head with one of Big Ten’s best

Danny Chen

The Gophers will look to extend their time atop the Big Ten this weekend against two conference opponents while on the road.
 
No. 29 Minnesota is tied with Illinois for first in the conference standings and will take on No. 11 Ohio State and No. 49 Penn State over the weekend.
 
The Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten with a 4-1 record, and they just lost their first conference match since 2005 to Illinois.
 
“They’re very good, especially at home,” head coach Geoff Young said. “And I think our guys will be very motivated to battle and ready for a great challenge.”
 
Freshman Matic Spec said he thinks his team has a chance to increase the Buckeyes’ conference losing streak to two.
 
“Our team this year is really good,” Spec said. “As our coaches always say, if we all bring 110 percent, a lot of good stuff can happen. We just have to go there and do everything possible in order to get the results that we want.”
 
Individually, Spec has won seven of his last eight matches. One match was unfinished.
 
Spec is tied with freshman Felix Corwin for the most singles wins on the team this season at 24.
 
“We mostly count our wins together,” Spec said. “We talked, and we realized that we have 48 wins together, which is pretty solid.”
 
The two freshmen will need to make an impact for the team in its match against one of the nation’s best.
 
After playing the Buckeyes on Friday, the Gophers will travel to Pennsylvania to take on the Nittany Lions on Sunday.
 
After losing two consecutive Big Ten matches, Penn State is now 1-4 in conference play, while the Gophers have won their last four matches.
 
“We [have] to focus on our strengths,” junior Ruben Weber said. “I think we have an even better chance to beat them because we are on a roll right now.”
 
The Gophers’ winning streak will be tested on their road trip. The team boasts a 10-0 record at home but is only 2-4 on the road. Minnesota faced tough competition away from home this season, with each of its losses coming to teams ranked in the top 25.
 
But Young said he’s not thinking about his team’s road record this weekend.
 
Home or away, the Gophers try not to play differently, Young said. 
 
“Our team has to make sure that we stay in our game and keep believing in ourselves in tough moments,” he said. “If we do that, it doesn’t matter where we play.”