With a young, talented squad, the goal for the Minnesota men’s tennis team is simple.
With only one senior, captain Martin Michalowski, the Gophers are assuredly a young team.
Not that it matters. The young Gophers have been playing beyond their years. Minnesota freshman Harsh Mankad reached the quarterfinals at last weekend’s Big Ten Singles Championships before losing to eventual champion Tyler Cleveland.
Add last year’s Big Ten freshman of the year Thomas Haug to the mix, and the kids are certainly all right.
“These guys are freshmen university-wise, but they’ve played a lot of tennis,” coach David Geatz said.
There won’t exactly be a lot of tennis going on this weekend, but what volleys there are should be high-quality. No. 33 Minnesota plays host to three teams (New Mexico, Washington and Notre Dame) who are ranked above them in the latest standings.
The first match is today at the 98th Street Racquet Club, and, needless to say, the Gophers have their eyes set on moving up.
“The weekend will definitely be a really good gauge to see where this team is,” Michalowski said. “I feel we’re much better than where we’re ranked.”
Michalowski might have a point. Minnesota does boast an all-Big Ten player from last season (junior Tyson Parry) to go along with Mankad and Haug.
With only one senior on the team, Michalowski’s role as team captain has grown to include helping his teammates mature.
“For me, with the younger guys, I try to show what it’s all about,” Michalowski said. “It’s a bit of a process. In the fall, guys see the level of competition. But once the dual meets start, if the older players show confidence, it’ll show these younger guys how good we can be.
“We don’t think it’s unclear how good we can be, it’s just unclear if we’ll be that good,” he went on. “When it comes to the tough teams in the conference, we’re always up there. Now we have to prove it because we’re kind of younger.”
The young blood definitely has an upshot. The newbies are clearly talented, possibly beginning a long run at the top for the Gophers.
And long runs at the top are something of a tradition for Minnesota — the team won four straight Big Ten titles under Geatz in the early ’90s.
“For the next few years, we’ll be as good as ever,” Geatz said.
Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]