The Gophers women’s tennis team hasn’t had much luck lately against Michigan.
The Wolverines, ranked 20th nationally this season, have dominated the Big Ten in recent years. Minnesota, which has often been near the bottom of the conference, has lacked the talent, experience and health to compete with them.
“In past years, it’s maybe been a bit of a pipe dream [to beat Michigan],” Gophers head coach Tyler Thomson said. “They’ve just been a level better than us.”
Not this year.
Each team will also play Michigan State over the weekend.
The first six weeks of the Gophers women’s tennis team’s season was a test, and Minnesota aced it with nine wins in its first 10 matches.
This past weekend, Minnesota tacked on some extra credit.
No. 34 Minnesota won its seventh and eighth consecutive matches, rallying to defeat No. 52 Tulane 4-3 on Thursday and No. 50 Louisiana State on Saturday in its final two matches of the nonconference season.
The Gophers defeated No. 52 Tulane and No. 50 LSU on the road.
Alexa Palen was an All-American even before she joined the Gophers women’s tennis team.
Or at least that’s how Gophers women’s coach Tyler Thomson saw her.
Thomson, Minnesota's 11th-year head coach, wrote “2013 All-American” on Palen’s recruiting itinerary when she came to Minnesota on her official visit — months before she struck her first ball in a Gophers uniform.
The junior has emerged as a singles standout in the Gophers' 9-1 start.
Few teams understand that better than the Gophers women’s tennis team.
No. 30 Minnesota won its sixth-straight match Sunday, defeating No. 60 Wisconsin 5-2 in Madison, Wis., in its conference opener.
The Gophers had losing streaks of four and eight matches during their 2011 campaign, which they finished with an 8-16 record. They have already won nine matches to start 2012, with their lone loss Feb. 5 at home to then-No. 28 Washington.
The women won their ninth consecutive match to surpass last year’s win total.
Phillip Arndt was the only men’s player to lose to the Badgers.
Gophers tennis players got the chance to play in a US Open qualifying event this past weekend at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center, and Baseline Director John Pratt was satisfied with the outcome.
“It turned out to be just a fantastic tournament,” Pratt said. “Five of the eight finalists on Sunday were Gophers or had Minnesota connections so it turned out to be a great showing for us and I think a great showing for the University.”
Baseline tennis center hosted the qualifier over the weekend.