Gophers open up weekend with tough opponents

Freshman Felix Corwin volleys the ball at the Baseline Tennis Center on March 6 against Washington.

Daily File Photo, Liam James Doyle

Freshman Felix Corwin volleys the ball at the Baseline Tennis Center on March 6 against Washington.

Danny Chen

The Gophers saved one of their most challenging weekends of the regular season for last.
 
No. 33 Minnesota is set to face third-ranked Illinois and Northwestern, two teams right next to the Gophers in the Big Ten standings.
 
Minnesota is currently tied for second, while Illinois is first and Northwestern is fourth. 
 
And being at home, where Minnesota is 10-0, gives the team a better chance to get it done.
 
“The guys are doing a great job staying positive and working hard during practices,” head coach Geoff Young said. “They believe that they can play at a good enough level to win.”
 
During this season, freshmen Felix Corwin and Matic Spec have contributed 27 singles victories apiece for the Gophers. 
 
“We just want to be reliable for our guys,” Corwin said. “So far, we have done a great job, and we are bringing energy to our courts to help the other guys out.”
 
This will be Corwin and Spec’s first meet against a top-three team in the nation in Illinois, and Corwin said there is a little bit more energy than usual during practice.
 
“This is our last home weekend for the regular season, and we are just really pumped to play top teams,” Corwin said.
 
However, Young said they don’t change their practice regime just because they’re set to play a quality opponent.
 
“Every day, we just try to maximize our games and do the things that let us play the best tennis,” Young said. “If that’s good enough to be successful against those teams, then it’s great. If not, then we will learn from it and be better off for it.”
 
Minnesota lost to both Illinois and Northwestern last year 5-1 and 7-0, respectively.
 
Senior Leandro Toledo didn’t have much success individually against either of his opponents.
 
He lost 6-4, 6-4 against Farris Gosea of Illinois and 7-6 (7-0), 6-0, 7-6 (7-4) to Raleigh Smith of Northwestern.
 
Despite those results, Young said Toledo’s previous experiences with his opponents — especially Gosea, who returned to Illinois this year — will help in his upcoming meet.
 
“He’s played them both before, and I think that he knows what to expect,” Young said. “He knows how the guy will play, so there won’t be any surprises.”
 
The Gophers are eager to face both Illinois and Northwestern, and Corwin said his team will come out with lots of energy.
 
“We just have to get ourselves in the frame of mind of winning,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for us, and we hope to finish the season with wins.”