Men’s tennis has last chance at redemption

Ken Zimmer

The Gophers men’s tennis team stands seven consecutive match wins from a national title. But since the team has failed to string even three wins together, it might struggle to even get out of the regional tournament.
In its last chance to salvage something from a disappointing season and a fifth place Big Ten finish, the team must find the consistency it has lacked all year. After a few brilliant victories and close losses, the team has one last chance to prove it is a contender.
The Gophers not only have to play a solid match through doubles and singles positions, they have to do it for successive matches.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” coach David Geatz said. “We have enough talent to win, but enough inexperience to lose.”
Minnesota (11-12) was awarded the No. 6 seed in its regional tournament after winning its final two matches at the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers will bring their usual road roster, which consists of three freshman and no seniors, to South Bend, Ind.
The squad enters the eight-team tournament against a familiar foe in Notre Dame. The Gophers have split their last four matches with the Irish and have played them in every year of the regional tournament’s existence. But Minnesota might use parity as motivation to make its run for the title.
Two seasons ago Minnesota held an identical record and faced host Notre Dame in the first round en route to winning the regional title. The juniors on the team are hoping to have the same good fortune they had that year in order to compensate for inexperience.
“When we won my first year, we got really lucky and made a lot of comebacks,” junior Martin Kristoffersen said. “But we had three freshman on the team then, so I think we have a good chance (this year). We’ll need to play well and get a little lucky again.”
Whether the team has been lucky or good can be debated, but without a doubt Minnesota has achieved success. The Gophers have reached the semifinals all four years and the championship game twice at the regional tournament.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, success can fade fast. A promising season quickly became a rebuilding year, but a good showing in the tournament would help in the future.
“Getting in and doing well is a positive we can take into next year,” captain Martin Michalowski said. “Obviously, we didn’t do as well as we expected to at the Big Ten tournament, so this is another chance to prove ourselves as a good team.”