Season begins with Drake Invitational

The Gophers are looking to improve on their second round exit in last year's NCAA Tournament.

Max Sanders

The Minnesota menâÄôs tennis team begins its season this Friday with a three day tournament in Iowa. The Drake Invitational is the first of six fall tournaments for the Gophers, who will send four players to the competition. The Invitational will allow those players to practice for later events including the Big Ten singles championships, which begins Oct. 30. âÄúItâÄôs an opportunity for those four guys to really get some practice competing, thatâÄôs really what itâÄôs for,âÄù Gophers head coach Geoff Young said. Minnesota finished last season 19-8 during the regular season , advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to eighth-ranked USC, who went on to win the title. Last season was a stunning turnaround, considering the season before the Gophers finished 7-17 and 4-6 in conference play. Returning eight players, including six that posted at least 19 victories last season, Young has his sights set on an even better finish this year. âÄúWe want to make the Sweet Sixteen and go to the final site of the NCAAâÄôs,âÄù Young said. âÄúWe finished one match short last year, and this year weâÄôd like to go.âÄù One key performer from last season, Ishay Hadash , will not be returning as a player due to eligibility rules. However, Hadash will be returning in another capacity âÄî assistant coach. Young sees the addition of Hadash on the coaching side as a benefit to the team, which can now focus more on individual instruction. âÄúItâÄôs great; itâÄôs going to make our practices better,âÄù Young said. âÄúItâÄôll let us give a lot of individual attention.âÄù While Hadash has yet to work with the entire team, Young does not envision any problems with the team getting used to Hadash on the sidelines as a coach. âÄúThey [the players] respect Ishay as a friend and as a player, IâÄôm sure theyâÄôll respect him as a coach as well,âÄù Young said. After the Drake Invitational, the Gophers will head to Malibu, Calif., to compete in the Pepperdine Invitational . Young expects a majority of the team to compete in that Invitational. A strong start beginning in the fall season will give Minnesota a better chance at a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament, which is key if the Gophers look to improve on last yearâÄôs tournament appearance. âÄúDuring the course of the year the better we do, the better we position ourselves for getting a better draw in the NCAA Tournament,âÄù Young said.