Minnesota men’s tennis head coach Geoff Young hopes quality trumps quantity when the Golden Gophers take to the courts this spring.
With just eight players on the squad, Minnesota looks to continue its recent success that has seen the Gophers advance to the NCAA regionals 13 of the past 14 years. Ranked No. 41 in the NCAA preseason rankings, the Gophers will ride the fortunes of senior standout Raoul Schwark and a group of underclassmen in their quest for another trip to the postseason.
Minnesota opens its season by competing at the Purdue Invitational on Jan. 19-21. The Gophers begin their home season on Feb. 1 when they host Denver. Young coached at Denver for six seasons prior to coming to Minnesota last season and leading the Gophers to a 15-10 overall record and sixth place finish in the Big Ten.
Schwark is ranked 46th in the preseason after his 21-8 campaign in 2006-07 where he earned all-Big Ten honors. The Dalheim, Germany native went 9-3 this fall with an individual title at the Princeton Invitational and suffered all three losses to individuals ranked among the top 22 players in the preseason. Schwark, who is ranked seventh in the Midwest Region, has 65 career singles wins as is the two-time reigning team Most Valuable Player.
Freshman Tobias Wernet will likely be Minnesota’s No. 2 player following an 8-3 fall season that saw him capture the top flight at the Northwestern Invitational. Also a Germany native, Wernet is ranked 23rd in the Midwest Region and played doubles with Schwark at the ITA regional.
Freshman Sebastian Gallego went 6-3 this fall and advanced to the title match at Northwestern where he lost to Wernet. A Colombia native, Gallego was the fourth-ranked player in his age group in South America.
Sophomore Dino Bilankov and senior Pierre Dumas both return from last season. Bilankov, a Croatian, played primarily at No. 6 singles as a freshman and finished with an 8-4 record prior to a 7-3 effort last fall that included a third-round appearance at the Big Ten Singles championship. Dumas, a Frenchman, posted a 6-6 record in the fall and has played two career Big Ten matches.
The final spot will be settled by senior Chi-Lang Pham, junior Adam Altepeter or freshman Derek Peterson. Pham is the only member of the group who has played in a dual match, finishing 1-1 last season in singles and 13-10 in No. 3 doubles matches.