Newfound consistent playing is key to the success of one Gopher's tennis player.
After a three-year rollercoaster ride that fluctuated between great highs and lows for men’s tennis player Marino Alpeza, his final year has been a steady high.
“There were a lot of injuries [and] a lot of matches that didn’t go my way,” Alpeza said. “[I] had a lot of ups and downs and those tough times really helped me become the person I am today.”
Over the past three years, Alpeza has transitioned from a player fighting to crack the lineup to one of the most consistent pieces for the Gophers.
Last year he primarily showed up in the doubles lineup and held a 9-8 record in singles.
This season, Alpeza has played primarily singles, slotting in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots. He has more than doubled his total wins from last season and currently leads the team in wins with a 24-11 record. His record at the No. 4 spot is 12-2.
Head coach Geoff Young credited his success to consistent play.
“He just stays committed to playing aggressive and going for his shots,” Young said. “He really started doing a better job at it last year, but this year he’s been more consistent.”
Alpeza had to truly trust his play style mentally, which caused him to be more aggressive. So far, it's paid off.
“I developed a lot mentally and I think my game improved a lot because of that mental aspect and learning to trust my game,” Alpeza said.
He also credited the challenges that presented themselves during his first three years, because without them, he would not have grown both on and off the court.
“I’ve truly matured a lot throughout these four years, and I look at the world differently than I did my freshman year,” Alpeza said.
As the Gophers prepare for their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, Alpeza will be focused on his match while soaking in the experience.
"[All season] I’ve definitely been more aware of the matches than in previous seasons,” Alpeza said. “I just can’t believe I only have a little time left competing for this University and alongside some great guys.”
After graduation and the conclusion of the season, Alpeza will be preparing for a business internship in Germany.
After the summer, Alpeza will be back on the court for the University of Nottingham in England, while he continues his education by working toward a master’s degree in business and management.
Although Alpeza will be leaving Minnesota behind, he said it will always be a second home to him.
“Minneapolis has been nothing but amazing to me, and I look forward to coming back,” he said.
The Gophers tennis team will return to action Friday, as they match up against the University of San Diego in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.