Minnesota’s hot start and solid season paid off Wednesday.
The Gophers will play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014-15.
“I don’t think that will pose, necessarily, any different challenge,” said head coach Geoff Young. “[The sophomores] have been in some big matches before.”
Eight of the 11 players for Minnesota are sophomores or younger, making this their first time to make it past the Big Ten tournament.
The NCAA tournament begins on May 12 for the Gophers, and their first-round opponent is Georgia Tech.
Minnesota will play the 17-7 Yellow Jackets at Gainesville, Florida on University of Florida’s campus.
Georgia Tech boasts the seventh-ranked singles player in the country, junior Christopher Eubanks, and he is teamed with senior Carlos Benito to form the 38th ranked doubles duo in the nation.
The last time the Gophers made it to the NCAA tournament, the team posted a regular season record of 21-8 and made it to the second round but lost to Virginia, the eventual champion.
Last season, Minnesota finished with an 8-18 record. The Gophers missed the NCAA tournament after losing 4-1 in the first round of the conference tournament.
Senior Jeremy Lynn and juniors Matic Spec and Felix Corwin were the only three players still on the team the last time they went to the tournament.
“They have added to their games,” Young said. “They’re doing more, looking to get to the net more … and are a little more aggressive with their returns.”
In 2015, the Gophers opened up the first round with a matchup against Princeton and won 4-1 but got shut out in the second round against Virginia.
This year’s team doesn’t have a 21-8 record but instead a 17-10 record that took them to the second round of the Big Ten tournament.
Minnesota’s record is solidified by a strong start and has been steadily improving throughout the season.
“By this time of the season,” Young said, “we’ve played so many matches that it’s time to learn from our mistakes and have a good start and giving it everything we have out there.”