Select few Gophers heading to ITA in Oklahoma

When thinking of the international sport known as tennis, one usually doesnâÄôt associate it with Tulsa, Okla. However, two Gophers left for Tulsa yesterday for one of the most distinguished tournaments in the nation, the ITA All-American Invitational. Sophomore Sebastian Gallego and junior Dino Bilankov are starting qualifier play today in doubles, an accomplishment in itself. Placement into the qualifier level was based on previous year records and required beating out players from across the country. Last year, Bilankov didnâÄôt make it to the ITA All-American Invitational, and this year, itâÄôs his first tournament. âÄúI think I improved a lot [from last year]. I got an award for most-improved player and I think Sebastian and I are a really good match,âÄù Bilankov said. âÄúI think weâÄôre a good, competitive team.âÄù Aside from doubles, both are also playing singles, starting off at the pre-qualifier level. âÄúI have heard there are some good players even in the [pre-qualifier level] playing, but honestly, I have high expectations,âÄù Bilankov said. Bilankov hopes to qualify for the main draw for both doubles and singles. But the Croatia native also realizes that making it to the main draw for singles is going to be a challenge. He would have to pull off big wins at both the pre-qualifier and qualifier levels. Even with high hopes, Bilankov admits that he will gain some knowledge. âÄúItâÄôs going to give me some insight into how players play this season,âÄù he said. Minnesota junior Tobias Wernet departs for the ITA Invitational Sunday morning for MondayâÄôs qualifier competition. The team will be pulling for these swinging standouts throughout the nine day tournament. âÄúIâÄôm excited for Tobias, Sebastian and Dino,âÄù freshman Michael Sicora said. This excitement may or may not have to be contained, but nevertheless, it will be a learning experience. âÄúMy expectations are for them to compete hard with courage,âÄù coach Geoff Young said. Gophers not attending ITA are back to practice as usual, focusing on the basics. âÄúWe try to make developments in their game,âÄù Young said. âÄúThe fall is a time where they can afford to make changes. Sometimes you make a change and you have to go backwards in order to go forwards.âÄù