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Gophers men’s tennis is cherishing every moment of final season

Minnesota men’s tennis has caught fire during the program’s final season, winning five of its last seven team matches.
Image by Courtney Deutz
Fourth-year Jackson Allen returns the ball on Friday, March 22, 2020 at the Baseline Tennis Center.

In early October, the University of Minnesota’s athletics department announced its plans to cut the men’s tennis program and two other sports following the 2021 season; this gave the team one last season representing the Maroon and Gold.

Nobody could have predicted the impact that COVID-19 has had on the Gophers’ athletics department. Men’s tennis has been hit especially hard after ending its 2020 campaign early, on top of now facing the reality of it being the program’s last season.

“It’s been really tough; it’s still really tough. It was a big shock in the beginning, and I think it was a big distraction in the beginning,” senior Jackson Allen said. “With COVID, you can’t have more than 20-40 people at the match, so it really sucks because there are a lot of people that want to come watch with it being the last season but can’t. It’s kinda a double whammy.”

Allen and the rest of the team have overcome the multitude of uncontrollable circumstances, and they’re beginning to find their rhythm. After dropping three of their first four matches, the Gophers have found themselves in the win column in five of their last seven.

“I remember walking off the court after the first match thinking, ‘Oh no, I hope this isn’t going to be a long season,’” Allen said. “The team has really stuck together in tough circumstances and just kind of put our heads down and taken it one day at a time.”

With the Big Ten Tournament opening the Gophers’ postseason play on April 29, they have less than a month to make their final adjustments for the home stretch of the season. They currently find themselves in second place within the conference’s West Division and fourth place overall with a 7-5 record.

“We need to keep doing well in the doubles point, we have been mixing around pairings, and we just need to figure that out,” Allen said. “We’re pretty tough in singles, so it would be pretty hard for any team to win four out of the six singles matches against us.”

The Gophers are beginning to do just that, as senior Vlad Lobak and sophomore Siim Troost rank as the ninth-best doubles pair in the country, according to ITA’s weekly rankings. The duo’s 10-2 record on the season puts them in a position to make some serious noise in the postseason.

With nine total players on the roster, five who grew up outside of the country and five who are underclassmen, Allen, a Shakopee, Minnesota native has taken it upon himself to be one of the team’s leaders.

“These guys are 20 years old, and most of them are from a different country and not near family,” Allen said. “A lot of them have picked their new schools already, so this has just been a lot about trying to enjoy our time together. It’s been important to bring the group together and cherish these last few weeks, [as] opposed to letting them slip by and regretting it for the rest of our lives.”

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