Alpeza keeps up native language at Minnesota

The freshman is from Mostar, Bosnia, and is 2-1 in singles so far in college.

by Jack White

Freshman Marino Alpeza started his first college tennis tournament more than 11,000 miles from home. 
The Mostar, Bosnia, native went 2-1 in his first tournament at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regionals in Fayetteville, Ark. 
He won two matches in a row on three sets but lost his third match to teammate Ruben Weber in the round of 32. 
Alpeza and Weber were paired together in doubles at the tournament and lost in doubles before facing each other in singles. 
“[It was] his first tournament, so he’s just trying to figure out what college tennis is all about,” head coach Geoff Young said. “I thought he competed well and learned a lot about his game, and now we know what we need to work on.”
Alpeza is working on his speed and his forehand, but he’s still come a long way to get to Minnesota.
Young said the Gophers noticed Alpeza because he competed well at various tournaments in Europe throughout his career.
Keeping tabs overseas is nothing new for Young and his coaching staff, as half of the Gophers roster is from outside of the United States. 
“We’ve been doing this for a while,” Young said. “So we have people we know and have a pretty good idea of determining a player’s level of play. It’s not always easy, but for the most part, we know how to do it.”
Alpeza played on a future team for Bosnia and on the International Tennis Federation Pro Circuit in Europe before coming to Minnesota. 
The freshman said he had many college offers to choose from including Division I offers from schools such as Mississippi State. 
Alpeza said he picked Minnesota because an assistant coach and a player on the team stood out to him.
Minnesota associate head coach Urban Ljubic hails from Ljubljana, Slovenia, and speaks Bosnian like Alpeza. Sophomore Matic Spec from Maribor, Slovenia, also speaks Bosnian.
“[Ljubic] is speaking the same language as I am; Matic is speaking the same language as I am,” Alpeza said.
Ljubic said he went out to Bosnia to visit Alpeza and his family last year as part of his recruiting process.
Ljubic drove up to Alpeza’s house for dinner and spent time talking about topics like tennis and the Bosnian War.
“Since I speak his language, it’s a little easier for me to go there and communicate with his parents,” Ljubic said. “After talking to him, he seemed very calm and confident that he can do well.”
Ljubic also said he was impressed with Alpeza’s size and strength. Alpeza is listed at 6-foot-4, making him the tallest player on the team.
Spec and Alpeza knew of each other before becoming teammates at Minnesota, as Alpeza said he saw Spec compete before college.
Spec got to college a year before Alpeza but said he now enjoys having a teammate who speaks the same language as him.
“It’s a little different when you have a teammate who speaks the same language,” Spec said. “It’s easier to connect.”