Gophers continue to fight through conference schedule

Big Ten win of the season, the Minnesota womenâÄôs tennis team will attempt to turn last weekendâÄôs near sweep over Michigan State into a streak when a pair of conference foes come to town this weekend. The 64th-ranked Gophers host Penn State on Friday at 5:30 p.m. before Ohio State comes to town for a Sunday showdown at 11 a.m. Both meets will be held at the Baseline Tennis Center. While the conference season is just getting underway, this weekendâÄôs pair of meets could have substantial influence on how the three similar teams might be seeded come the Big Ten championships in late April. âÄúItâÄôs a big weekend, as they all are,âÄù Gophers coach Tyler Thomson said before pointing out that Minnesota only has four Big Ten meets at home this year. Minnesota went 2-2 in meets over spring break with losses to No. 16 Michigan and No. 67 College of Charleston and wins over Rutgers and the Spartans âÄì both teams are unranked in the latest polls. The .500 performance dropped Minnesota six spots in the polls from 59 to 64 and left ThomsonâÄôs team with a need to focus. âÄúOur goal is to play with a consistent level of intensity,âÄù Thomson said. Ohio State âÄì despite beating Utah 6-1 in its only recent action âÄì also fell from 35th to 41st in the polls. Penn State is unranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls. Men hit the road Leaving the comforts of home, where the team has yet to be beaten this year in 11 meets, the Minnesota menâÄôs tennis team travels to the other end of Big ten land this weekend for a pair of meets with nationally ranked opponents. After a pair of home wins over Michigan and Michigan State pushed the Gophers to No. 28 in the national polls, Minnesota, which is just 1-3 on the road, heads to Happy Valley for a Friday meet with No. 53 Penn State. The Gophers follow that competition up by stopping in Columbus on their way home for a meet with sixth-ranked Ohio State âÄì the best team Minnesota has seen so far this season. âÄúItâÄôs going to be a tough weekend,âÄù Gophers coach Geoff Young said. âÄúOur focus is on Penn State right now. ItâÄôs critical not to look ahead.âÄù But Ohio State is in the Gophers peripherals. The Buckeyes boast two of the top eight players in the country in Bryan Koniecko (3) is and Steven Monecke (8). All six members of its squad are nationally ranked as individuals. âÄúThey have really good players at the top of their lineup,âÄù Young said, before adding the Gophers werenâÄôt intimidated. âÄúThey still have their strengths and weaknesses,âÄù Young said. Ohio State has only lost once in 18 meets this season âÄì a 3-4 edging by current No. 5 Tennessee on ValentineâÄôs Day. âÄúWeâÄôre going to go into the Ohio State match believing we can win,âÄù Young said.