NCAA leaves Gophers out in the cold

Minnesota missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years.

Bob Wothe

Just two days after Minnesota’s men’s tennis team learned the careers of its full-time coaches were not ending, its season officially did.

The Gophers (9-13, 6-6 Big Ten) found out at approximately 4 p.m. Wednesday that the team would not participate in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years.

“We’re very disappointed, but it wasn’t totally unexpected,” sophomore Mikey Kantar said. “This year was not Minnesota tennis, and it gives us a lot of incentive to work harder for next year.”

The news came on the heels of word that former coach David Geatz and assistant coach Adam Cohen, on paid leave since Feb. 21, were found guilty of overseeing a program that committed six secondary NCAA violations and were suspended for 30 days without pay.

With the investigation ongoing throughout the season, the Gophers struggled to their worst record since 1966, when the team went 3-13.

“It was an up-and-down year,” Kantar said. “The coaching change was a little bit confusing, and there were adjustments that disrupted us in the middle of the season. You hope it doesn’t affect your play, but in some ways it does and it takes some adjustment time.”

Yet Kantar said the team found a flow under interim coach David Wheaton toward the end of the year, and still had an outside chance of getting in because the team was ranked 53rd.

Had the Gophers made it, they would have been the fourth Big Ten team to make the field behind No. 5 Illinois, Ohio State and Northwestern, which got in at No. 46 with a 12-12 record.

But Minnesota’s record of four matches below .500 might have been the final straw: The only sub-.500 teams to make the field were William and Mary, Texas Christian and Southern California.

William and Mary was ranked No. 62 but received an automatic bid by winning the Colonial Conference. Southern California got in with an 11-12 overall record but had a No. 21 ranking thanks to playing in the perennial powerhouse conference of college tennis, the Pac-10. Texas Christian was the only shocker, as it was ranked No. 45 with a 7-14 record.

But no matter the mathematics of it all, Minnesota understood an NCAA berth was unlikely.

“Honestly, the way we played this year, we couldn’t expect much more,” sophomore Sion Wilkins said. “We had some bad losses, and even though I still think we’re a great team, paper results are what matters to get into the NCAA Tournament.”

The Gophers’ only solace lies in Avery Ticer, who is ranked 31st in the national singles average. Ticer will find out whom he plays Friday when the field for the national singles championships is announced.

“We’re excited that Avery is going on to play in the NCAAs,” Kantar said. “We hope that he can do really well and will take some pride in him – that can put a good ending on a tough year.”

Women’s team bolstered by Brazilian addition

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team announced Wednesday the signing of one of the best junior players in Brazil.

Karina Chiarelli, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, will join the Gophers beginning in the fall.

Chiarelli has won several national junior tournaments, including a recent national doubles title. She’ll try to help improve a team that went 6-15 overall this season and won only one game in the Big Ten for the second-straight season.

“Her arrival here is also going to push all of our players to a higher level,” assistant coach Luciano Battaglini, a native of Brazil himself, said in a statement. “Karina has an outstanding work ethic and is very excited about coming to the United States to distinguish herself as a player and a student-athlete.”

Soccer recruit receives award

Yet another recruit on Minnesota’s soccer team has been honored for her athletic accomplishments.

Less than a week after Lindsey Schwartz was named Quad Cities athlete of the year, Marti Klinsing was awarded the Athena Award, which is given annually to the top high school athlete at each school.

Klinsing was a four-year letterwinner at Wayzata High School and earned all-state and all-conference honors.