Following each road trip throughout the 2009-10 season, a different Gopher men's tennis player will provide an inside look at the team's recent travels. Check back during the season to read about the Gophers' adventures on the road.
May 20 - Dino Bilankov
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - The day when we departed for the last and the most important tournament of the season - NCAA championships. As usual, we met in the back of the Baseline Tennis Center to take a cab to the airport. One could feel the extra excitement about the trip. Everyone was in a good mood with smiles on their faces. You could just tell it would be a good trip. And it was.
We arrived to Austin, Texas, around 6 p.m. and went straight to the courts to hit. It is always important to feel the courts as much as possible before the match in order to get used to them. We had no problems getting used to Texas' courts. After the two-hour hit, we went to eat together and then got back to the hotel to start a long night. Why long? Because five of us had to take a final on Thursday morning. Tobias, Michael, Julian, Rok, and I spent good portion of the night studying and mastering the material that we were going to be tested on.
On Thursday morning, after 2.5 hours of sleep, I woke up at 6 a.m. to finish up with my studying and finally take the final at 8. I went down to get breakfast at the hotel's restaurant where I met the rest of the guys who had to take the final. We all talked about our worries and concerns regarding the test, and after finishing our breakfast, we went to the learning center with our academic advisor/proctor Chris Cords to take the exam. Now, you would expect that everything would go good with the exam, but one minute into exam, I realized that Chris gave me the test that was not from my class. Instead of being tested on Corporate Finance, I was struggling with banking questions until I actually realized mistake and told Chris about it. Fortunately, other guys did not have problems like me with their test. Long story short, everyone finished their test in the morning, while I had to wait until the later afternoon to get my real test.
After the test, we went for another three-hour hit. It was a great practice filled with positive energy and great attitude. Having our Arizona match in the heads, we were all really focused of using every minute to get better and find that perfect shot that will help us win crucial points tomorrow morning. Or at least it supposed to be "morning."
Friday came really fast, and we were supposed to play at 10:30 against the University of Arizona Wildcats. However, as soon as we came to the courts it started raining. We all felt sorry for the tournament staff that spent last hour drying the courts, and when they were almost ready for play again, the raindrops started falling again. And it seemed it would never stop. After spending one hour in the lounge, waiting for the official decision, we were told to go back to hotel and rest until the courts are ready for play again.
This rain delay messed up a lot of plans for organization staff, but it did not influence our determination to win this match. Finally, at around 6:30 p.m., we started our match. One could tell that Arizona was not as excited about this match as we were. And we proved it on the court. Starting off strong in doubles, we got early victory at number two and three doubles, winning our first point.
Because of the rain, singles started with only three matches. There were six courts overall, split between Texas' first round match, and our match. Therefore, the plan was either to wait for the first open court on our side, or to wait for Texas' match to end, in which case, all of our late three matches would go on in the same time.
First on court were our number 1, 2, and 3 singles. Sebastian at #1 faced J. Goldman. The match started off tough. Both of them holding serves, not letting go any opportunities, it was a nerve-wrecking match. However, Sebas stepped up at 3-3 and broke Goldman to get the advantage and eventually win the first set. Tobias at #2 played A. Arango, a great South American, who seems like he does not care, but is a great competitor. However, Tobias was on top of his game, taking first set 6-3. Our only player in the first round that struggled was our freshman Rok. Rok at #3 played A. Carrasco, a tough player with great spin and energy on the court. Rok fought hard, but lost first set 6-4. Approximately after first sets in the first round, the second round went on.
Brendan, Phil, and I stepped on our courts, confident with Sebastian and Tobias being up. All we needed was three more points after doubles, and with Sebas and Tobias we were already so close to two of them. With all this confidence Brendan and I started off really well and took early leads in our matches. Personally, I played one of the best matches this season and took a great lead, winning the first set 6-1. At this point, Sebas and Tobias were already winners at their courts, and all we needed was one more win. Me being up 6-1, 3-1, things looked really good. Brendan and Phil fought hard on their courts, but my match were going quicker than theirs, and soon after we were off the court with the 4-1 win over #30 Arizona.
It is hard to describe the feeling of pride and happiness we felt afterwards. Although we believed in this win from the beginning of our match, it felt extra special when it became the reality. However, we had only a couple of hours to celebrate the victory and then prepare for the toughest challenge this year, beat #3 Texas for the sweet sixteen.
Saturday started off much better than Friday. We could sleep in, eat very good breakfast, and still have plenty of time to warm up in, this time, nicer weather. Again, energy was great. Everyone bouncing on their toes, supporting each other, and looking forward to that match - it was the priceless feeling.
At 1:30 p.m. we started the match against the Longhorns. This time around, two out of three doubles did not perform as well as on Friday. Although Texas took the doubles point fairly quickly, Phil and Rok and #3 doubles probably played one of the best doubles matches this year, beating their team 8-3. Being down 1-0 after doubles is always a tough position to be in, but we gathered as a team and did not let that put us down. We agreed we would give everything we got on the court and see what happens.
Although the final result says Texas beat Minnesota 4-0, we proudly walked out of those courts, knowing that we gave everything we had at the moment. It is unfortunate that matches at NCAAs finish as soon one team reaches 4 points, because this match could've finished not 4-0, but 4-3 for Texas.
Three out of six matches ended up getting in the third set, and looked really good from our standpoint. Although this loss did not cause any surprise in college tennis, I want to note that this is one of those losses that actually gives you confidence. It showed us how close we are to the top teams in this country when we unite and truly play like a team.
After the match we gathered in the locker room for a final word from the coach and anyone who wanted to add anything. Looking back at the season we remembered both good and bad moments, our practices, trips, and crucial moments. For me, as a senior, it was a very emotional moment. Listening to my teammates and coaches for the last time after my last official match as a college player was one of those moments that I knew would eventually come, but never knew how I would get through it. After saying how much I am going to miss the team and all that comes with it, we all came together, hugged each other, and "brought it in" for the last time this year. That moment reminded me why I enjoyed last four seasons so much, and why in my heart, I will always be a true Gopher.
May 3 - Michael Sicora
Our trip to the Big Ten tournament, or "tore-na-ment" as Brendan would say, began with a flight at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. This was a nice change to the usual early morning flights that we have. When we got to the airport no one had eaten lunch yet, but since we did not have much time before our flight we were very rushed. Julian told Dino that there wasn't enough time to get something to eat, so Dino went straight to the gate. Sadly for Dino everyone actually did have time to find food and Dino was forced to be hungry the whole flight. For those of you who don't know Dino this was very hard for him since he is usually the one eating the most!!
Our flight went well and we arrived to our hotel. A funny thing that happened was I found a dead butterfly on the ground and picked it up and I didn't know how afraid Brendan would be of it. He ran away from it faster than he runs on the court! I also snuck it into his backpack when he wasn't looking. Needless to say he was NOT happy to find it later that night.
We had a good practice that day and a good night's rest. The next day, because we got a bye, was another day to practice. We also got to watch some of the first round action. Later that night was the Big Ten banquet inside of the Indiana football stadium. It was great food and pretty nice atmosphere. Congratulations to our captain Tobais Wernet for winning the sportsmanship award, and to Sebastian Gallego for receiving All-Big Ten honors! It was great for them and they definitely deserved it! There was also a guest speaker who was very entertaining and had some good words for thought. He reminded us to "play every point as if it was our last, and be grateful for every time you get to put on your school's uniform and play for them." This was great to hear!
The next day was match day. It was very windy and we knew going in that we would have to be mentally prepared to not let that affect our play. Wisconsin has a great team and we needed to be as positive as possible and make sure we take care of things that we can control. The doubles was extremely close and came down to our number 2 doubles team, Dino and Sebastian. At first they were down, but then they came back and actually took the lead. The Wisconsin team proved to be tough though and pulled ahead to win it. Even though we lost the doubles point we kept our heads up and knew we would just have to go out and get it done in singles. Singles proved to be even tougher than doubles. Although we were fighting hard and staying positive, the Wisconsin team came out ready to play and put a lot of pressure on us. They did this successfully and we lost the match. Afterwards the coaches were complimentary on how we tried to help each other out and our fighting attitudes. They also reminded us that the season is not over and NCAA's is coming up. We just need to keep working and good things will happen!
The trip was a good learning experience for us. We will use the next week and a half to work on things and fine tune our games so that we can bring everything we have to NCAA's! Also, Rok will continue to work on his English so that he won't misinterpret things like: the words "mini" and "mean", how to be on time when the coaches say 5 p.m., which doesn't mean 5:30, and many other words and phrases. Sorry Rok, unless these things change you will continue to be a story in the blogs :)
Thanks everyone for reading and look for our blog in a couple weeks that describes our NCAA experience!
April 19 - Sebastian Gallego
Our trip to Purdue started early on Friday as we took cabs from Baseline to the airport. Our teammate Michael (Sicora) was in an unusual good mood, while everyone else was kind of sleepy because it was really early. Its OK, Doogy, it happens. As we got to the airport, most of the team went to McDonald's to have breakfast because there was plenty of time before the plane's departure. Once in the plane, I had the pleasure to sit next to our freshman Brendan "Linda" Ruddock, who really likes to fly and enjoys sitting on a plane for more than an hour.
In Chicago, we got two mini vans and drove to West Lafayette for about two hours (not sure). We checked in the hotel and went straight to eat lunch. There weren't too many things around the hotel to eat, but finally we decided to go to Wendy's. While Worny and the coaches decided to go somewhere else, the rest of the team enjoyed the tasty meals from Wendy's. Honestly, I used to like Wendy's burgers, but after that meal I had on Friday I will never go back again and I think some of the guys weren't too happy about their meals. In fact, Wendy's joins Olive Garden as the banned restaurants for the men's tennis team.
We got to rest a little before going to practice on Friday because there was a match going on at Purdue's facility. We hit for two hours and the team seemed to be excited for one of the last matches of our season. The team decided to go eat at Noodles and Company, where we had a great meal. After the dinner we headed to the hotel and relax for the match next morning.
On Saturday morning we had breakfast and went to the courts for the match against the Boilermakers. While driving on campus, we saw all these strange people wearing costumes in the street and going to the bars. Literally, it was 10 am in the morning and it seemed that people were having a lot of fun. Later, we heard that it was kind of a tradition at the school and people go to bars to have breakfast.
Once we got to the facility, the team warmed up and got ready for the match. The doubles point was quite challenging. Dino and Julian were not able to keep close the score in the second doubles and lost the first doubles of the match. Fortunately for the team, the other two teams pulled out a victory at the end and the Gophers clinched the doubles. The singles matches were a little easier for the Gophers. This time, Brendan, Phil, Tobias and Sebastian got relatively easy and quick wins for the Gophers to clinch the match. Our senior, Dino, retired after winning the second set to prevent an injury and finally, our freshman Rok Bonin fell in straight sets.
The team was very happy to get one more win and excited for Sunday which was the last match of the season for the Gophers against Iowa. Right after the match got done the Gophers stretched for a while and went to shower to get ready for the drive to Iowa. We went to eat before leaving for Iowa at Panda. When we were leaving, we had the chance to see the police arresting a few people for public intoxication on the street. They didn't look in the best shape.
We drove to Iowa and the drive took forever. It seemed like we were going to the end of the world. We got to Iowa and we went straight to the hotel. The nicest hotel in the Big Ten once again welcomed the Gophers.
Next morning, the Gophers woke up a little earlier to get a practice before the match. It was a great idea to get our bodies going. Like coach Young would say, the Gophers got a good rhythm of the courts and were ready to outperform the Hawkeyes. When we got back to the hotel we went to eat breakfast in the hotel.
Ready for the match, the Gophers took off for the courts and packed all the stuff ready to come back home afterwards. The match was extremely tough. It was a battle. Iowa took the lead with the doubles point and a win at number three singles. However, the Gophers were able to bounce back with couple of victories by Tobias and Sebastian. With the score 2-2, it was senior Dino Bilankov who was able to come up with a huge win for the Gophers at number four singles and adding one more point for the Gophers. With two remaining matches going on in the third set, it was our freshman Brendan Ruddock, the first to win his match, clinching the dual match for the Gophers 6-4 in the third set. Finally, Phil Arndt came up big at the end and won his match also 6-3 in the third set.
Tired but really happy, the team enjoyed a sweet victory eating in Old Chicago and driving home for another five hours. Thanks to the coaches for the great weekend and we will see you this week when the Gophers take on the Badgers once again in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament at Bloomington, Indiana.
April 12 - Phillip Arndt
On Friday, April 9 at 10 a.m. the Golden Gopher men's tennis team took off to challenge the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Indiana Hoosiers. The team flew halfway to our destination landing in Milwaukee which was a great opportunity to grab some lunch for the hungry group of guys. As we were sitting at the table we unfortunately got more hungry after our waitress dropped two pizzas on the floor with one landing on Rok's book bag. Smelling like a delicious spicy pepperoni pizza, we all felt sorry for the person who had to sit beside Rocko on the plane (haha). We landed in Indianapolis, got the rental vans and rode for three hours to Champaign, Illinois. After a good practice getting used to the courts we felt pretty good going into the match.
Saturday morning the team got a good breakfast at Bob Evans Restaurant where we spent the majority of the trip because we had one of the slowest individuals as a waitress serving our food. Fortunately, they had some of the best blueberry crepés! After breakfast we packed up all of our stuff and headed to the courts.
The Gophers came close to getting the doubles point but unfortunately lost in two close doubles matches 8-5 at #1 and 9-8 at #2. Julian Dehn and Dino Bilankov prevailed at #3 doubles winning it close 9-8. while the doubles looked promising for a comeback for the Gophers, it did not happen the way we wanted it to losing five out of six singles matches. Illinois defeated Minnesota 6-1. After the match, the Gophers rode back to Indianapolis and stopped at a Texas Roadhouse for a nice meal.
After a good night sleep the Gophs woke up with confidence going against the Hoosiers on their home court. After a tough loss with the Hoosiers winning all three doubles matches, the Gophers were determined in getting revenge from last year's first round Big Ten tournament. With wins from three singles matches at 1, 3, and 5, there was room for one more win to triumph over the Hoosiers. Brendan Ruddock (B-Rudd), a freshman from Long Island, New York was playing at number 6 singles and was in a battle. Coming back from 4-1 down in third set Brendan got the match to a tiebreaker at 6-6. At 4-4 in the tiebreaker Brendan hits a forehand wide crosscourt for the Hoosiers to go up 5-4. After a few rallies back and forth and a few laser forehands in the corners, B-Rudd clinched the match for the Gophers winning 7-5 in the tiebreaker. With cheers from the spectating Gophers, Brendan drops his racket and points to the sky in celebration of the heart-pounding win. Gophers defeat Indiana 4-3!
After a long trip back to the Twin Cities arriving at midnight, the gophers mentally prepare for next weekend as they take on the Northwestern Wildcats on Friday and the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday. Come on out to support your Golden Gophers!
March 29 - Tobias Wernet
Hi fans! It's been awhile since I wrote the BLOG (I thought I am released from writing it as the captain...FALSE!!!) and I am actually excited to write it for this weekend. Hello, my name is Tobias Wernet and I am a Junior majoring in Entrepreneurial Management and International Business.
We were waiting for a long time for this weekend to come. Our coach Geoff Young announced this weekend as the start of the "Second Season". He separates our season into three parts: Non-Conference, Big Ten season and the Play-offs which consists of the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament.
Enough of introduction, we started our trip on Thursday morning at 7am still having the huuuge win over Pepperdine in our minds. We were feeling good about ourselves and had confidence in each other. We knew though that we had to win against Western Michigan on Friday, which we did.
We didn't go through them like we originally wanted to but in the outcome we won 6-1. I personally lost my match but I want to share some of the thoughts that were on my mind. I was down, the third match I lost in a row, which never happened to me in college. People were asking me what was wrong and I just didn't feel as good as last year to that point in the season and I saw the start of the Big Ten on Saturday as an opportunity for a new start against a ranked team and a ranked player.
Saturday, we got up and we knew: "Today counts!!!" Michigan, first Big Ten match and not just that, a really important one too for the seeds in the tournament after the regular season. Urban (Associate Head Coach) would describe this team as very similar to us and it depends just on who has the better day. The doubles was great, Michigan as well as Minnesota came out on top and it was very competitive and one of the best doubles both teams have played so far this season. We lost the doubles point by losing the first and second doubles in the breaker, our third doubles won.
The Michigan facility is set up so three singles play on one side and the other three on the other, therefore, I can not say much about Rok, Sebas and Phil. I finished last and played next to Dino and Brendan. The match day was very competitive and we competed very well, we wanted to take the JUG back home with us since we beat Michigan 4-3 last year. We lost 5-2 overall. Rok and I won. Again, I want to share something with you, something really positive for me personally. I won my match and that was such an important win for me to bounce back to how I can play. I feel I am so ready for the Big Ten season now and so are the guys. We beat Michigan State on Sunday 5-2. We did our job. We unfortunately couldn't win on Saturday but the season is long and I have so much confidence in my teammates that I will assure you that we will play a great Big Ten season and keep that up until the end of the play-offs.
I have been talking a lot about tennis, but I know that some people (maybe like YOU) like to read those blogs because they are funny. Hasn't been funny at all so far but let me share a couple things with you that made the team smile and I hope you consider them as funny as well. Not easy to write about it because when you are actually there when it is happening it is hilarious. Our freshman, Brendan Ruddock, is well known for coming late to lifting, coming late to practice, class, just coming late in general. This little problem goes always back to the same issue though. Brendan doesn't wake up to anything, not his phone, not the radio, not to loud noises...NOTHING!!!
We were driving from Chicago to Western Michigan, Western Michigan to Michigan and from Michigan to Michigan State. Friday, as well as Saturday night, when we drove to the next hotel he fell asleep in the car and he wouldn't wake up to slamming doors, team members getting the bags out of the car, Geoff locking the car so we thought we would be nice and let him sleep in the car on his own :-) On Friday he woke up 10 minutes after we left and on Saturday about one hour after. He is about 6-4 tall and it looked so funny how he was lying on the bench in the car not waking up.
The first funny thing happened right on Friday though, on our drive from Chicago to Kalamazoo. We left the highway to go eat something.
Upfront I have to say that our freshman's English improved since he came here, I am talking about Rok, but sometimes he doesn't know what's going on like he did past Friday when he got asked what kind of SUB he would like at Subway. The conversation went like this:
Subway: What kind of bread would you like?
Rok: Wheat, please.
Subway: What kind of SUB would you like?
Rok: (turns to Urban, then, turns to Julian) SUB?
Subway: Yeah, what kind of SUB would you like?
Rok: SUB??? What's a SUB???
Thanks for reading my blog, time to get on the flight. I hope I will see some of you next week at our home match against Penn State and Ohio State. One more thing I want to tell you that I am sooooo proud of: Michigan State's fan population was about 20 today, our season high was 650!!! You guys are great, we are so strong at home because of you, you guys boost us like no other fans in the country. Other teams fear our crowd. Keep it up Gophs!!! Cheers, Werny :-)
February 1 - Brendan Ruddock
After beating The Nebraska Cornhuskers in Nebraska, the Golden Gopher Tennis Team had a great amount of confidence. This weekend we traveled to the University of Kentucky to qualify for the National Indoor Championships. In our group, there was tough competition such as Wake forest University, University of Michigan and University of Kentucky.
Our flight left Minnesota on a very early Friday morning around 5 a.m. So we had to leave campus around 4 a.m. It was a struggle to get up. We eventually arrived in Kentucky around 2 p.m. We had lunch and then hit the court to practice. Everyone was pumped up for our first match against Wake Forest; all of us were ready to do "BIG THANGS!" as our teammate Eddie would say. We arrived to the hotel after our hit and had dinner. Then eventually all of us passed out early in the night because of the long day we had.
The next morning the time had come to face the Demon Deacons. It was a tough match and everyone fought hard to try to pull off a victory for the Gophers. Our upperclassmen Sebastian "el Fuego" Gallego and Dino "Saur" Bilankov came up with huge wins.
Unfortunately, in a close battle, Wake Forest came up on top. We were all depressed until it was time to go to Phillip "Pipo" Arndt's house, sophomore from Kentucky. His parents made us food while we conversed and enjoyed each other's company, almost like a little team bonding session. We watched college basketball and also watched how our captain Tobias has a passion for cats. He never let Pipo's cat out of his sight...Poor cat haha. As we said our goodbyes to the Arndt household, Dino noticed a bag of chips on the table. Dino is the team's food eating machine. He crept up to the bag of chips like a lion stalks its prey. Phil's mom noticed and said Dino those are dog treats, he was shocked and disappointed all at the same time, it's okay, Dino.
A huge event during car rides is a game we play called the name game. Two teams, one team thinks of a person and the other team has 12 questions to find clues or hints to guess the person correctly. The MVP of every game is easily our Head Coach Geoff. He is a name game beast who rarely gets stumped. A lot of controversy and arguments come up quite frequently. It gets very intense.
Our second match of the weekend was against Michigan. After the tough loss against Wake Forest we came out ready to avenge ourselves. Our Number 1 on the team... the cat lover and team Captain Tobias "Werny" Wernet ended up cramping in a tough and grueling three set match. Our new freshman Rok "Rocky/Rocco/Pebblz" Bonin faced a top freshman in the country but also fell short in another tough three set match. In the end Michigan won in a match that could have gone either way. It was a rough weekend tennis wise for the team, but now we know where to grow and where to work from this. Sometimes losing is a good thing. We can figure out where need to get better and beat these teams next time.
Our last night in Kentucky Michael, Julian, Dino and I went to a Mexican restaurant near the hotel. We had a fun time, especially listening to the advice Dino gave me on how to pick up girls. The comments Dino made had Michael spit out his food in laughter. Thanks for the laughs Dino!
In the end it turned out to be an awesome weekend. Seeing PIpo's house, watching Werny become attached to Pipo's cat, listening to Dino's advice on girls and having an awkward conversation with an airport employee (El Fuego has a new best friend haha) and getting into arguments over the name game was a great time. We play Louisville University next, our first home match of the season. So come out and support the GOPHERS!
January 27 - Julian Dehn
This weekend's trip was the start of the 2010 season. On Friday morning we took off to Lincoln, Nebraska. It was an eventless drive for the first hours since most of the guys took the time to get some sleep. Ishay, our former #1 on the team, joined the coaches for the trip as student assistant coach. Since many cultures are represented on the team, Ishay's lunch order opened an interesting discussion about eating habits. "Salad without lettuce, please" was surprising for the Americans, while the Europeans didn't think it was out of the ordinary.
In the afternoon we finally arrived in Lincoln and got a good hit after the long ride. Unfortunately, Brendan, our freshman from New York, suffered again from his stomach virus and was not able to practice and compete for this weekend.
While the coaches observed our opponents "the Cornhuskers" in the evening, we deserved a good dinner at a nice Italian restaurant. Rok, who just joined the team this semester, asked if they also had Italian food on the menu at this Italian restaurant. The atmosphere was great and it seemed we were enjoying our first trip. The evening turned out to be relaxing and one of the biggest tennis tournaments of the year, the Australian Open, covered the TV program for the rest of the night.
On Saturday, the day started well with a nice breakfast before we went to the last practice before our first match of this year's "adventure".
At 7 p.m. it was the point in time we had been waiting for for a long time. We started well and with a good doubles performances we saved the doubles point. High credit to Rok who showed in his first match already that he is a great addition to the team and served big in the deciding situations.
The singles were very close and it came down to the last match. Sebastian "el fuego" showed the crowd that he was ready for the challenge and with some amazing shots he pulled out a third set victory and clinched the match for the Golden Gophers. It was a deserved victory, since we competed as a team and showed good energy on the courts. It was a great start for this year's season and will give us confidence for next weekend.... the qualifying for the National Indoor Championships where we will face #16 Wake Forest.