Gophers take on Iowa, try and bounce back from rough stretch

Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota men’s tennis team appeared to hit a wall both physically and mentally in its last three conference matches.

Quickly dropping from a top-25 spot and losing its undefeated conference record in the form of three straight defeats, the Gophers headed into their bye weekend on a downslide.

With that weekend now in the rearview mirror, No. 36 Minnesota (12-6 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) welcomes unranked Iowa (7-8 0-5) to the Baseline Tennis Center this afternoon for its first match in nearly 10 days.

Junior Raoul Schwark, ranked No. 73 in the nation at singles and the winner of three straight matches in combined play, said the off weekend could play a big role in the team’s success for the remainder of the regular season conference schedule.

“I think we really got our energy back, and we’re motivated again,” he said. “We should be coming out real strong against Iowa.”

During the team’s three-match slide before the break, the losses, all against top-40 opponents, were decisive, with Minnesota bowing to opponents in a 17-4 combined deficit.

Senior Andres Osorio, who spent the spring season at No. 1 and 2 singles, said the team needs to come out of the break raring to go.

“We need to just forget about what happened before the break,” he said. “The goal is to destroy Iowa and get ready for a tough weekend.”

If the team is to pick up its first conference victory in over two weeks, it will need help from the bottom half of its singles lineup.

The bottom three have gone 1-9 over the course of the last three matches and now finds themselves without senior Brian Lipinski, out for the season with an ankle injury.

Coach Geoff Young said the team’s success has been hindered by a small portion of its dual meet lineup.

“There were really just a couple of guys whose confidence wasn’t there, and I think they had a good week of practice,” he said. “If we can get everyone clicking, I think we’ll be fine.”

The Iowa match will be the first step of a challenging three-match week for the team, with each opponent appearing to be tougher than the last.

After battling Iowa this afternoon, the Gophers will continue their final home stand of the season taking on No. 63 Northwestern on Friday and following it with No. 45 Wisconsin on Sunday.

Young said he likes how the schedule is set up and the opportunity it affords his team to gain momentum for the upcoming Big Ten Championship looming just over two weeks away.

“Each match brings stronger competition to the table,” he said. “It will no doubt be a challenge, but I think we’re ready for it.”

But before looking ahead to the weekend, Minnesota will attempt to take care of business against a weaker opponent.

Schwark said the goal is not simply just to win.

“Our goal should be 7-0 for sure,” he said. “We need to get back on track in a big way.”