Gophers Travel To Virginia Tech
The Minnesota men’s tennis team ventures to Virginia Tech for its only match of the weekend. The Gophers face the 40th-ranked Hokies on Saturday afternoon at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center in Blacksburg, Va.
Minnesota, which is ranked No. 66 in the latest ITA rankings released Tuesday, will take a three-match win streak into play on Saturday. The Gophers have recorded consecutive home wins against Arizona, DePaul and Wisconsin.
“I think we are improving and it is nice to be rewarded for all the hard work the team has put in during practice with three wins in a row,” said coach Geoff Young. “I think we are focused on working hard during practices and trying to get better each day and in each match so that by the time Big Ten season comes we are as good as we can be.”
One area that Minnesota would like to improve on is playing away from Baseline Tennis Center. The Gophers are 4-0 at home, but 0-3 away from campus. Two of those setbacks came outside in neutral-site matches in Berkeley, Calif., while the other was indoors at Louisville.
“We are playing a real good team in Virginia Tech in their own place,” said Young. “The last two times we have played away from home were on really different surfaces and two matches were also outside. I think at Virginia Tech we will have similar conditions to what we are used to at home and I am looking forward to it.”
Young has had stability at the top of his singles lineup, as he has used the same top four players in all seven matches this year. That quartet, led by Rok Bonin (5-1 at No. 3 singles), has combined to go 16-9 this year.
Fifth and sixth singles have not seen the same stability, as Young has used three players at each spot this season. The Gophers are a combined 7-7 at the bottom spots in the lineup, but Young is confident that his young team will find its rhythm as the season moves forward.
“We feel like we have a lot of options to put in the lineup and it is difficult to know which is the right option for each match,” said Young. “We are doing the best we can and I think the lineup will work itself out eventually.”
One player who might help stabilize the end of the lineup is Jack Hamburg. The freshman missed the fall season with an injury and has recently worked himself into the lineup. He has played in the last four matches and has won his last three. He is 1-1 at No. 5 singles a 2-0 at No. 6.
Doubles play has been a strength for Minnesota this season, as the Gophers have won the doubles point in five of their seven matches. They have also won nine straight doubles matches as a team. Stalwarts Rok Bonin and Julian Dehn, who are ranked No. 50, are a perfect 6-0 in the spring, which includes an 8-5 win against Wisconsin’s Billy Bertha and Fredrik Ask, who are now ranked No. 21.
Hamburg and Phillip Arndt have also played the last four matches together and are 3-1, while Juan Pablo Ramirez and Leandro Toledo have teamed together to win for straight matches.
“I am really happy with our doubles,” said Young. “We have some cushion there and some depth, but it is going pretty well right now so I do not see there being too many changes with the lineup.”
After playing Virginia Tech, the Gophers will host No. 43 Drake at the Rochester Athletic Club on March 9 at 5 p.m. before jaunting out to California for Spring Break matches against No. 11 California and No. 53 Cal Poly.
Minnesota’s next match at Baseline Tennis Center is March 23 against Michigan State.