U men’s tennis clinches top seven finish with Sunday in

by Ken Zimmer

The Gophers men’s tennis team refused to pass up its last chance to gather momentum for the postseason, crushing Indiana on Sunday.
The 6-1 home victory over the Hoosiers scratched off two items that had been on the team’s agenda list for a long time: playing a solid match at every position and clinching a top-seven seed at the Big Ten tournament.
“I think we came in today knowing we had to win, and I think everyone played with more intensity and a little tougher,” junior Martin Kristoffersen said. “I think that’s good for the tournament coming up and shows that we can play better.”
In what coach David Geatz called a “must-win” match, the No. 48 Gophers made quick work of the Hoosiers. After winning the doubles point, Minnesota lost only one set while earning victories at No. 2 through No. 6 singles. Beating Indiana should take some of the pressure off the team as it heads into the Big Ten tournament Friday.
“(The win) gives us confidence because this is a good (Indiana) team, and we need to play well,” captain Martin Michalowski said. “We dominated them in almost every match and played big when we needed to.”
Freshman Jon Svensson returned to the No. 4 singles position after sitting out last weekend’s match against Purdue with a sore back. Still ailing, Svensson was unable to endure two matches, as the team played Kristoffersen at No. 3 doubles with Adam Selkirk.
Assistant coach P.J. Priest said Svensson might be finished playing doubles, but a nagging injury won’t keep him out of the starting six come tournament time.
“Jon, with a sore back, has more fight and determination than anyone on this team,” Priest said.
Tyson Parry won in his second consecutive start at No. 6 singles, as Jorge Duenas sat out his first match in a month. Duenas’ racquet has been slipping lately, as he has lost five of his last six matches.
Parry and Duenas, both freshmen, are on the seven-man roster that will travel to Champaign, Ill., this week. Everyone on the roster is expected to get sufficient playing time, giving the Gophers one more weapon where other teams may be lacking.
Although the team has depth, one thing that concerns Geatz is the team’s lack of experience.
“They always say you can’t win the Big Ten with freshmen, and half of our team that will be playing are freshman, so we’ll see if that theory holds true or not,” Geatz said.
Junior Tom Chicoine said he’s learned that inexperience isn’t an excuse for futility.
“I don’t think (having new players) will hurt us. I know my first year we had three freshmen playing in the starting lineup, and ended up making it to the final 16 in the NCAAs,” he said. “It can be done. We have a good group of freshmen, and they play well.”
Depending on the rest of the conference’s weekend results, the Gophers appear to have secured the No. 6 seed in the tournament. That means it will play the No. 3 seed, either Michigan or Northwestern, on Friday. The Gophers lost 4-3 in Ann Arbor, but defeated the then-No. 24 Wildcats by the same score.
Although the team is youthful, the Gophers have tradition on their side. Minnesota has never finished worse than fifth and has won the tournament five times in nine years under Geatz.
The Gophers will now look for that type of tournament consistency, which it has lacked during the regular season. Minnesota (9-11 overall, 5-5 Big Ten) must peak at the end of the season once again to keep its championship hopes alive.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but we are always getting better,” Parry said. “I guess we’re just going to have to go for it … we have nothing to lose.”