Minnesota’s men’s tennis team knows every year brings along a few surprises – good and bad.
One of the biggest surprises of the year, and one that hurt the program considerably, came when coach David Geatz and assistant coach Adam Cohen were sanctioned by the NCAA and the University for rules violations.
Unfortunately for the team, the season-long investigation overshadowed the biggest on-court surprise of the year: Avery Ticer.
“I turned out an impressive season, cashing in on the potential that coach Geatz and Cohen said they always saw in me,” Ticer said.
But not even Ticer’s impressive 14-5 record, his unanimous All-Big Ten selection or even his award as Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Midwest Senior Player of the Year could outweigh his leadership value.
Ticer’s loss in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championships on Wednesday ended his tennis career at Minnesota. He was the Gophers’ first-ever three-year captain, helping his team the most when it needed him the most.
And it needed him the most this season.
The indefinite suspensions of Geatz and Cohen in mid-February forced Athletics Director Joel Maturi to hire interim coach David Wheaton, who had never coached before.
Ticer made the transition much easier than it should have been, Wheaton said.
“He was integral to my coming on as interim head coach and to make the adjustments,” Wheaton said. “He is not only a captain or a senior, but beyond that he has a maturity level that is atypical of someone his age.”
Ticer’s influential advice for Wheaton might have been echoed sentiments that he received when he came to Minnesota.
It was Geatz, a friend of Ticer’s since age 10, who convinced him to come to Minnesota, making it that much harder to hear the news of his suspension.
“I was just relieved when I saw that they were going to be coming back to the team,” Ticer said of the May 2 announcement that Geatz and Cohen would be allowed to stay at Minnesota. “They aren’t just coaches, they are very good friends of mine.”
Ticer responded to the whole ordeal with surprising results on the court.
Ticer was ranked as high as No. 25 this year after starting the spring season 105th. He was 7-4 against ranked opponents, including wins over Nos. 10, 25, 34, 46, 80 and 81, and ended his career ranked 31st in the nation.
With his collegiate playing days officially behind him, Ticer decided to move on to becoming a lawyer, starting Monday when he takes the dreaded LSAT.
Overseeing the situation all season long, Maturi said Ticer’s goals and accomplishments reflect those of the ideal collegiate athlete.
“You don’t earn the accolades he has by accident,” Maturi said. “He has earned the respect of his teammates and his coaches and made the best out of the hand that was dealt.”