Senior Mikey Kantar took up tennis in South Minneapolis at a young age. Over a decade later, his tenure of competitive play is coming to a close in the very same city.
In the midst of his final semester of eligibility for the Minnesota men’s tennis team, Kantar said his route to a starting singles spot with the Gophers has been a unique one.
“Tennis is not the normal sport you pick up in the city,” he said. “Most guys on my high school team grew up playing in public parks through the Urban Tennis Program.”
The high school team Kantar refers to, Minneapolis South, made history during his junior season when it took home the Minnesota State AA Championship, the first city team to accomplish such a feat in 43 years.
Three members of that team, including Kantar and seniors D.J. Geatz and Sion Wilkins, all find themselves starting for the Gophers six years later.
Kantar said the championship run was easily one of the highlights of his playing career.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “We had a really unique group of guys that came together and did something that seemed impossible to many.”
Along with three Minneapolis South alums, the Gophers’ starting lineup as of last weekend included three other natives before senior Brian Lipinski went down with an ankle injury.
Senior Andres Osorio said the senior leadership headed by two-year team captain Kantar is vital to the Gophers’ success not only in this season, but for the future.
“We as seniors try to improve and lead the entire squad to ensure that there is no drop off next year,” he said. “And Mikey is at the forefront of that.”
His leadership will likely be needed as the team’s goal of a run to the NCAA tournament has been briefly sidetracked in the past two weeks with the Gophers falling nearly 15 spots in the national rankings in that span.
Kantar said his confidence in the team has not been shaken and the goals have not changed, despite the rough stretch.
He added that his individual aspirations give way to the good of the team, especially battling in what will be at most his final two months of collegiate tennis.
“I’m not going to be a pro tennis player. The important thing is what this team does,” he said. “Our goal is the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament and maybe further. Nothing has changed.”
Coach Geoff Young, in his first season coaching Minnesota, said it didn’t take long to figure out who the leader of his team was after his arrival, and that Kantar’s efforts will be needed if the team’s lofty goals are to be recognized.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team, and he expects so much of himself,” he said. “Before he leaves here, I want him to believe in himself as much as he believes in this team.”
Kantar, who has already graduated with a Bachelor of Science in applied plant science, said it’s important to teach as much as he can to his teammates before his time at the University ends in May.
“I want to leave a mark on this program in any way possible,” he said. “Hopefully that will be through my contributions to a tough team in the NCAAs on my way out.”