‘Sky is the limit’ for Gophers men’s tennis heading into season

The team returns two players ranked in the top-100 for singles, according to Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

Gophers senior Matic Spec returns the ball to South Florida in the Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016.

Joe Sulik

Gophers senior Matic Spec returns the ball to South Florida in the Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016.

Max Biegert

The Gophers will be represented at a tournament that  features three players in the top 15 for singles via ITA starting on Thursday.

Senior Matic Spec represents the Gophers at the four-day Oracle Masters in Malibu, California at Pepperdine University. 

Senior Felix Corwin, junior Josip Krstanovic, sophomore Stefan Milicevic and freshman Jackson Allen will also compete, but in the 42nd annual Milwaukee Classic. 

“The first tournament of the fall is a good thing to use as an indicator to see where the guys are at,” said head coach Geoff Young. “We will come home with a lot more information on what we need to work on.” 

The Gophers ended last season with a record of 17-11, including postseason play, which ended at the NCAA tournament. They will be returning two All-Big Ten honorees in Spec and Corwin. Spec earned first team honors, Corwin earned second team honors. Krstanovic was the Gophers’ recipient of the Big Ten sportsmanship award. 

Spec enters this year ranked 39th in the country via ITA, while Corwin comes ranked No. 83 in the country in that category, according to ITA.

They both have been playing doubles with each other for much of their careers and their doubles pairing finds itself ranked 55th in the country. 

“We get along very well, there is way less pressure to play with [Corwin], because we work on the same wavelength and we understand each other so well,” Spec said.

The Oracle Masters’ format will consist of a singles tournament and a mixed doubles tournament. In mixed doubles, a men’s player will pair up with a women’s player from the same conference. In the mixed doubles pairings, Spec will be playing alongside Anna Sanford from Ohio State.

“I am just looking forward to playing some good matches at the Masters, getting in as good as tournament shape as possible for the Spring,” Spec said. 

Corwin will lead the Gophers in the other tournament this weekend in Milwaukee. Corwin, along with the three other Gophers, will be competing in both singles and doubles tournaments, beginning with singles qualifying on Thursday. 

This will be the first tournament for newcomer Jackson Allen from Shakopee, Minnesota, who most recently won the Class 2A Minnesota State Championship. Corwin will get to know a new partner this week.

“This weekend I am getting the chance to play with Jackson Allen,” Corwin said. “I think it will be fun to play with a younger guy and I look forward to working with him.”

The Gophers return sophomore Eli Ogilvy, who often played in the third and fourth spot last year, and junior Marino Alpeza, who often played in the sixth spot. 

They both look to learn from their experiences from last year and build on them this year. Young also said that he is anxious to see how the three new freshman play.

In 10 seasons as the head coach, Young has gotten the Gophers to the NCAA tournament seven times, and won a Big Ten regular season title in 2015.

“We are really excited, the margin from 35th in the country to fifth in the country is really not that far off, the sky is the limit for this team,” Corwin said.