Gophers have strong start as a team in mind for the fall

Though the 2008 Minnesota menâÄôs tennis team wonâÄôt see its first action until the end of the month , the Gophers are wasting no time in looking to the future. Despite coming off a disappointing 7-17 season in which Minnesota finished just 3-16 against nationally ranked opponents , coach Geoff Young âÄôs squad is brimming with confidence. âÄúI think we have great potential this year,âÄù junior captain Dino Bilankov said. âÄúI donâÄôt want to say the numbers and rankings, but I just think we can do great things.âÄù Sophomore Sebastian Gallego agreed, saying that injuries may have slowed the teamâÄôs progress last season. âÄúI think we didnâÄôt do big mistakes, we just had some injuries at the beginning,âÄù he said. âÄúSome other guys couldnâÄôt play and, well, the roster was not that big.âÄù Now that the Gophers are completely healthy, however, optimism radiates through MinnesotaâÄôs locker room. Sophomore captain Tobias Wernet is excited for a âÄúnew start,âÄù saying, âÄúthere are no concerns anymore.âÄù And although the players believe they have improved, Wernet insists the Gophers wonâÄôt let personal goals supersede team play. âÄúOf course you have individual goals for the fall season because these are individual tournaments,âÄù Wernet said. âÄúI think that the main goal this fall is to build a team, and the individual stuff is just beside that.âÄù Competing as a team is also a major focal point for Young. âÄúI like to have our goals be to take care of what we have control over,âÄù Young explained. âÄúSo our goals are to have fun, work hard and play as a team.âÄù As usual, Minnesota will face tough competition in the Big Ten this year. If the Gophers are to capture their first conference title since 1995 , the road will not be easy. Three teams from the Big Ten, including defending conference champion Ohio State, are ranked in the top 20 nationally. But there is undoubtedly room for improvement. Minnesota went 4-6 in Big Ten play last year, tying with Iowa for seventh in the conference . Still, Young expects the Gophers to âÄúat least be a lot more competitive than last year.âÄù In fact, this yearâÄôs talent prompts Young to prognosticate that Minnesota âÄúshould finish in the top thirdâÄù of the conference. Another storyline to watch will be the performance of the five true freshmen that compose nearly half the Gophers roster . The group, which includes two-time Minnesota AA State Singles Champion Michael Sicora of Buffalo , Minn., should provide an added boost in both singles and doubles competition. âÄúI think a lot of the freshmen will have a chance to contribute right away and play a big part in the lineup,âÄù Young said, adding that MinnesotaâÄôs youth may actually help the team rather than hinder it. âÄúI feel like last year we had a lot of new guys as well and inexperience sort of helped us because they just went out âĦ and didnâÄôt worry about who was across the net from them,âÄù he said. But Young said he believes the team is ready for a berth in the NCAA Tournament, and past experience has led Bilankov to predict that the Gophers âÄúwill make NCAA.âÄù âÄúI guess everyone is expecting a great season,âÄù Gallego said. âÄúHopefully we will do a great job.âÄù