Just days after learning coach David Geatz will step down at season's end, Minnesota's men's tennis team will try to shift its focus back to the Big Ten standings this weekend.
The Gophers (11-9, 5-1 Big Ten) will host Penn State (13-3, 3-3 Big Ten) at 6:30 tonight and Indiana (13-8, 2-4 Big Ten) at noon Saturday. Both duals will be played at Baseline Tennis Center.
"They both have good teams," Geatz said. "Penn State is really dangerous and I think Indiana is well-coached and has a lot of talent too. But I think we can win both matches if we play well."
Junior Sion Wilkins said Indiana is dangerous despite the Hoosiers' sub-.500 conference record. Indiana's one and two singles players Dmytro Ishtganov and David Bubenicek made it to the semifinals of the Big Ten individual tournament in the fall and could present problems for the Gophers' singles lineup.
"They are deep just like us, one through six," Wilkins said.
Many on the Minnesota team said a sweep this weekend will secure the Gophers a spot in the NCAA tournament because they have won four-straight games and seven of their past eight.
"If we have a good weekend and beat both these teams, we are for sure in the NCAA tournament, so this is a big weekend for us," said junior captain Mikey Kantar.
Said Geatz: "It's going to be really tough, if we sweep this weekend, to keep us out."
Kantar said both duals present concerns, but if Minnesota truly is a tournament contender, it should be able to overcome any problems.
"We're kind of in the taking care of business phase," he said. "Which is usually the time that separates the pretender from the contender. That's what this weekend's about, taking care of business and doing what we need to do."
For a team that dealt with an interim coaching staff and NCAA violations, Kantar said Geatz's resignation won't disrupt the team's play.
"It's something that's a distraction, but we're a team that is in no way unused to distractions," Kantar said. "It's not going to affect us at all this year, so we're not going to worry about it this year."
Women hit the road
After picking up its first Big Ten win last weekend, Minnesota's women's tennis team will look to build on its recent success when the Gophers hit the road this weekend.
Minnesota (4-13, 1-4 Big Ten) travels to Bloomington, Ind., to square off with the Hoosiers (15-5, 5-1 Big Ten) at Varsity Tennis Courts at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Gophers then will head to State College, Pa., to challenge Penn State (7-10, 2-6 Big Ten) at 10 a.m. Sunday at Sarni Tennis Center.
Minnesota coach Tyler Thomson said his team can compete with Indiana, but also said Penn State is a winnable dual. The Nittany Lions lost to Wisconsin earlier this season, a team the Gophers beat 4-3 last weekend.
"They are about the same level as us right now," Thomson said of Penn State. "It's going to be a dogfight for sure. I think it will probably be a 4-3 match."
Thomson said Minnesota still has plenty to play for as the season comes to a close.
"If we finish strong we have a chance to improve our seed in the Big Ten tournament, something we're looking forward to trying to accomplish," he said.
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