Men’s tennis wins without top players

by Tim Klobuchar

Team captains are supposed to lead by example, but Gophers men’s tennis players might have wanted to avert their eyes Sunday afternoon from senior captain Ben Gabler.
Gabler is one of the Gophers’ top players, but his snafu had nothing to do with tennis. Rather, it involved an act that, on the surface, requires far less athletic acumen — walking down stairs.
Only 45 minutes before Minnesota’s match with Arizona State, Gabler was walking down a flight of stairs at the 98th Street Racquet Club in Bloomington. He slipped and fell, bruising his back. The injury caused Gabler to miss the match, though he still might play this weekend at the Big Ten indoor singles championships in Champaign, Ill.
Gabler might have missed a step, but the Gophers didn’t miss a beat in his absence, defeating the Sun Devils 4-3. Senior Robin Rutili, forced into the line-up at No. 6 singles and No. 1 doubles, won both of his matches to compensate for the loss of Gabler.
Rutili studied in Sweden during fall quarter, and arrived back in Minneapolis at just the right time. Senior Lars Hjarrand, meanwhile, will miss all of winter quarter. Hjarrand, Minnesota’s No. 1 singles player last year, needs just one class to graduate, so he’s waiting until spring quarter to take it. His return in April could also be perfect timing for the team.
“He wants to play in the Big Ten championships and help us get to NCAAs,” said Gophers coach David Geatz. “If he took that class this quarter, he’d be done.”
Sophomore Tom Chicoine, Minnesota’s leader in singles wins during the fall season, won his match at No. 1 singles. Sophomore John Cheregi (No. 3) and Rutili also won their matches. The doubles teams of Rutili/Cheregi and Chicoine/Adam Selkirk also were victorious.
No. 42-ranked Minnesota was able to defeat No. 50 Arizona State without its top two players, which bodes well for the Gophers’ chances of regaining the Big Ten championship. Minnesota won four straight Big Tens until Michigan snapped the streak last year.
“If these guys make the commitment, we can be a real contender,” Geatz said. “There’s no doubt we can win the Big Ten.”
Women’s tennis
The Gophers were scheduled to begin their season at home Sunday, but their opponent, Vanderbilt, ran into rough weather in Chicago. The Commodores were forced to postpone the match.
No. 37 Minnesota now has two weeks until their next scheduled match, Feb. 1 against Iowa State at 98th Street Racquet Club.
Men’s track and field
Last year Benjamin Jensen missed a chance to compete in the NCAA outdoor track championships because of a late-season case of appendicitis. His surgery forced the Mandal, Norway, native out of the decathlon, for which he had automatically qualified.
Jensen took a step toward a berth at the NCAA indoor championships Saturday when he provisionally qualified in the pole vault. The sophomore’s vault of 17 feet, 2 1/4 inches was good for first place at the Badger Classic in Madison, Wis.
Other Gophers winners at the meet included: Jason Owen (mile run), Tim Van Voorhis (200-meter dash), Will Kurth (high jump) and Chad Yenchesky (shot put).
The Gophers host the Minnesota Invitational on Saturday at the University Fieldhouse.