Minnesota's men's tennis team - coming off a substandard 2004-2005 campaign - is out to prove this fall that last season was a fluke.
"For us, last year we were a talented team that underachieved," junior captain Mikey Kantar said. "We showed glimpses of how good we could be, but didn't have a comfort level with everything going on; it was a very disjoining year."
The Gophers opened their fall season this past weekend at the Crimson Tide Fall Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Minnesota brought three players to the tournament: sophomore Raoul Schwark, senior Adrien Debreyne, and Kantar.
Kantar won the Open Singles C draw for the Gophers. He started his run by defeating Bradley Weaver of Samford 6-1, 6-2, before beating Bernado Bachino 6-4, 7-6(5). He then narrowly overcame UAB's Kruno Despotovski 1-6, 6-3, (12-10), and Hanns Spangenberg to advance to the finals.
Kantar won the draw when South Alabama's Filip Kricka withdrew due to injury.
Debreyne was equally impressive. He went 4-1 this past weekend, with his lone loss coming to Hampton's Alin Zorila-Ditoiu 3-6, 2-6 in the finals of the Open Singles B flight.
"Adrien is just so solid," Kantar said of his fellow teammate.
He dismantled Florent Girod of Mississippi State 6-1, 6-0 to start his season. Debreyne then defeated Virginia's Eric Riley, Arizona's Claudio Christen, and top-seeded Jose-Carlos Pinto of Mississippi State to advance to the finals.
Schwark was able to close out Anton Mavrin of UAB in his first Open Singles A match with a narrow 7-6(8), 7-6 (2) victory.
Highlighting Schwark's weekend was upsetting No. 2 seed Joseph Jung of Alabama 6-2, 2-6, (10-4) in the round of 16.
He was eventually ousted by Rice's Ben Harknett 6-3, 5-7, (10-8).
The Gophers also sent out Schwark and Debreyne as their lone doubles team for the tournament. They knocked off Mississippi State in the first round prior to falling to William & Mary.
Kantar said the fall season will help the team become more comfortable with their games as they play a lot of matches against good competition.
"It was a good tournament for all of us," he said. I think what we want to do, is show that we are a way better team than we showed (last year). We need to make that jump in consistency to be a top 25 team."
Women also in action
Minnesota's women's tennis team also started its fall season this weekend at the Bronco Invitational in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Junior Ida Malmberg stood out for the Gophers; advancing to the finals of the Flight A Singles draw. She fell to Indiana's Alba Berdala 6-7, 2-6 in the championship match.
The doubles tandem of Malmberg and senior captain Nischela Reddy was a solid one. The team went 2-1, pulling off victories over Illinois-Chicago and West Virginia before being eliminated by Indiana.
Freshman Mariana Spilca picked up her first collegiate tennis victory with a convincing 6-1, 6-2 win over Illinois-Chicago's Corey Steven. She finished the weekend with a 1-3 mark.
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