NCAAs mean Geatz gets at least one more

Zach Eisendrath

Minnesota’s men’s tennis coach David Geatz will get at least one more weekend at the helm of the Gophers’ tennis program.

That’s because the Gophers discovered during the men’s selection show Wednesday night that its résumé was strong enough to receive a berth to the NCAA Tournament. Geatz will resign at the season’s end.

Minnesota (13-12, 7-3 Big Ten) will take on 22nd-ranked Louisiana State (15-9, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) in the first round of the tournament May 13 in Coral Gables, Fla.

“It’s nice to be in after last year’s absence,” Geatz said. “We had some good wins within the top 25 so I felt we deserved to get in. It is just a tribute to our guys.”

The Gophers – who finished the season ranked 41st in the Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings – figured they were on the bubble after being upset in their quarterfinal dual with Penn State at the Big Ten Tournament.

“It’s very exciting,” junior captain Mikey Kantar said. “We were pretty sure after the rankings came out that we would get in. It was a very weird feeling after the Penn State loss because it didn’t feel like the end of the season. We’re very glad that our season’s not over.”

Knowing full well only 33 at-large bids were doled out made the experience even more stressful.

But Kantar said it was the Gophers’ nonconference schedule that put Minnesota over the hump.

The Gophers beat No. 19 Texas A&M and 37th-ranked Southern Methodist, but also played competitively with No. 3 Texas, No. 7 Virginia and No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth.

“If we don’t have that nonconference schedule, we don’t make the tournament,” Kantar said.

Geatz agreed.

“Our nonconference schedule was unbelievable,” he said. “It would be hard to find another team with a rougher schedule than what we had.”

Minnesota started out the Big Ten season 6-1, but lost three of its last four duals – leaving them to sweat out the committee’s decision.

But the Gophers have to worry no more. Minnesota will take on a Tigers team it knows little about, but shares a similarity with.

Louisiana State University was bounced from its conference tournament earlier than expected as well. The fifth-seeded Tigers were stunned by 12th-seeded Mississippi State 4-2 last Thursday in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Despite a couple of rough weeks to close out the Big Ten season, Minnesota likes the opponent it will be paired against.

“They are a beatable team, Kantar said. “It is really a good situation for us. There is a lot of parity in college tennis right now, and it is a good match for us.”

Geatz said he doesn’t know much about the Tigers – a team the Gophers never have faced in his 18 seasons. But said he feels his team has a legitimate shot against the No. 2 seed.

“Absolutely we have a chance,” Geatz said. “We have a chance against anybody if we don’t make major errors.”

And with the monkey of qualifying for the NCAAs off their back, the Gophers plan on capitalizing on their position.

“Now that we are in, we can say ‘OK, now we are going to show everyone what we got,’ ” Kantar said. “It is a free feeling.”

For the Gophers, sending the coach that recruited them out on a high note made the Gophers berth extra special.

“That was a huge factor, Kantar said. “It is another chance to play for coach Geatz and another opportunity for us to have another performance.”

Geatz said he is just happy to see his final season continue.

“It feels great,” he said. “Great to keep the season going.”