The No. 33 Minnesota men’s tennis team kicked off its spring season Saturday, and it did so in impressive fashion with a 6-1 victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles.
This was the first match for the Gophers since the tournament season ended in November, and Coach Geoff Young was impressed with what he saw.
“I thought we actually played pretty well,” Young said. “The first match is tough. We haven’t competed in a while — and with the holidays, trying to get back in shape — but most of us played pretty well.”
Minnesota jumped out to an early lead by taking all three doubles matches. In college, matches take place simultaneously, and senior Tobias Wernet and sophomore Rok Bonin took care of business quickly with an 8-2 victory in No. 2 doubles. Junior Julian Dehn and sophomore Brendan Ruddock weren’t far behind, winning 8-4 in the No. 3 match to secure the point for the Gophers.
Senior Sebastian Gallego and junior Phillip Arndt, meanwhile, battled back from a 7-2 deficit, holding off several Marquette match points and eventually giving Minnesota an 8-7 (3) victory in the No. 1 match.
“Phil started a little slow, and he played better and better and I think he finished the match by being the best player on the floor,” Young said. “[Sebastian] kind of kept it together for them. He kept their spirits up and kept the energy. Those two can play some great doubles.”
The Gophers continued their dominance by taking five-of-six singles matches. Wernet made quick work of his opponent, winning 6-3, 6-0. Gallego followed with a 6-0, 6-2 victory of his own and Dehn clinched the fourth point and team victory with a 6-3, 6-4 win.
Bonin and Ruddock were also victorious for Minnesota. Freshman Dan Mamalat earned Marquette’s only point of the evening when he defeated Arndt 6-3, 6-1.
The season, though still in its infancy, could prove to be tough for the Gophers. Eleven of their next 20 opponents are ranked in the top-50 in the most recent ITA National Rankings. Five of those teams hail from the Big Ten.
“There’s a lot of talent in the Big Ten this year,” Young said.
That might be an understatement. Ohio State, Illinois, and Michigan are all ranked in the top-25 nationally, with OSU coming in at No. 4. The Buckeyes also have three of the top five players in the conference, including the nation’s No. 7 player, freshman Blaz Rola.
The Gophers have depth and talent of their own, and are capable of being successful in both conference and non-conference play. Reigning two-time team MVP and 2010 All-Big Ten honoree Gallego has been ranked as high as No. 37 nationally.
Captain and All-Big Ten selection Wernet was 20-14 in singles last year. Arndt is coming off a fall season in which he was 10-3 in singles matches. Dehn went 10-5 in the fall, and advanced to the semifinals of the 64-player Big Ten Indoor Championship.
Rok Bonin is poised to have a big season. The tenth ranked player in the ITA Central Region was 11-2 in the fall, and took home the Denver Pioneer Invitational.
Minnesota did what it needed to do to continue momentum from a successful fall. The win improves the Gophers to 4-0 all-time against Marquette, and gives them their third consecutive season-opening victory.
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