Gophers looking to take next step past dark cloud of controversy

Zach Eisendrath

Last week Minnesota’s men’s tennis team started releasing the demons from its tumultuous spring season.

The Gophers hope to continue the healing process this weekend at the Denver Invitational in Colorado.

“I think we’re going to be a lot better than people think,” coach David Geatz said. “We lost our No. 1 singles player (Avery Ticer) and didn’t replace him, but everyone we brought back is a year better.”

Minnesota is rebounding after a frustrating year, in which the team committed six secondary NCAA rule violations – leading to suspensions of a few coaches and players for the bulk of the season.

The Gophers also failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 12 seasons.

“Last year was just rough with everything that happened to the coaches,” sophomore Chi Pham said. “So I think it’s just a matter of making it happen because we weren’t that far off despite our poor results.”

It’s clear that everyone involved in last year’s turbulent season is trying to move on.

“It is in the past,” assistant coach Adam Cohen said.

“We’re talking about 2005-2006. We think we can be back to where we were a couple years ago.”

Despite losing Ticer, Minnesota – a team composed of mostly sophomores and juniors – has lofty expectations.

“We hope to make it to the NCAA tournament and finish the year top 25 in the country,” Geatz said.

Junior Mikey Kantar, who is replacing Ticer as team captain, said he left last weekend’s tournament in Alabama feeling optimistic. He won his Open Singles C draw at the Crimson Tide Fall Invitational in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

He has already shown he can replace Ticer as team leader.

“Nobody on the team puts in as many hours as Mikey,” Cohen said. “He leads by example. He comes in early and stays late.”

Following the example set by Kantar, the Gophers hope to send a strong message to their competition this fall.

“This is a good chance for us to show the rest of the Big Ten and college tennis that we are for real,” Pham said. “We have all the talent, now we just need to put in the work.”

Minnesota was impressive last weekend, compiling an 11-2 mark in singles and going 1-1 in doubles.

Juniors D.J. Geatz, Sion Wilkins and Andres Osorio hope to achieve similar success in Denver.