Throughout college, senior Matic Spec has had trouble finding the form he once had in his freshman season — until now.
Spec, who currently is on a nine-match winning streak heading into his final Big Ten championship this weekend, is getting feelings in his game he hasn’t had since freshman year. He said he can feel that loose feeling coming back to him and he hopes he can use that for the final stretch.
“Just like this year, I was just kind of playing, not thinking too much and I found myself ranked because I was playing really well,” Spec said. “I... have that feeling again and I want more of that feeling back.”
As a freshman, Spec won 31 singles matches and was the first to do that since 2003. This year, the senior has gone 18-2 overall and 10-0 in the Big Ten. Spec said nothing has really changed in his game. However, he never topped the record from his first season, going 15-13 as a sophomore and 21-16 as a junior.
In an effort to get that loose feeling back, Spec said he has tried to not think about wins and losses and instead enjoy his final year.
“I think the key is not to try to think about the good season. I am just trying to play every match as it is,” Spec said. “That allows me to play the way I want to, and it has turned out well.”
Spec and the Gophers will travel to Iowa City for the Big Ten championships starting this weekend. Spec is ranked 90th in the country. He has played predominantly in the No. 2 singles spot for the Gophers.
In the middle of the season, the longtime partnership of senior Felix Corwin and Spec had to be split up. Justyn Levin suffered an injury and head coach Geoff Young decided to move depth around in the lineup because of it. Corwin and Spec predominantly played in doubles together since sophomore year. They had a record of 13-7 this season prior to Levin's injury.
The change in doubles allowed sophomore Eli Ogilvy to be paired up with Spec. Ogilvy said the change represents what Spec has meant to the team.
“He greets everyone with a smile, and you can tell the energy he brings every day rubs off on the guys,” Ogilvy said. “He is reliable and you know he is going to give it his all, so he inspires other guys to do the same.”
Spec, for four years, has given the Gophers a consistent presence in the front of the lineup. Spec said what keeps him consistent is giving the same effort every day in practice and translating that into matches.
He said he has used that model especially this year. He has tried not to think about it being his last days as a Minnesota athlete.
“I have been thinking about the last year for a while, but not that it is finally ending," he said.
Spec added that he is "pretty content that it is coming to an end."
The Gophers will face either No. 44 Indiana or Michigan State in the quarterfinals for the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers lost to Indiana in Bloomington a few weeks ago 4-3. They beat Michigan State 7-0. Spec won his singles match in both duals.
“He will be hugely important, but both he and [Corwin] bring consistency and they will need to continue to do that in the top of our lineup,” Young said. “We are going to be a tough team to beat.”