Men’s Tennis Returns Veteran Group As 2018 Season Begins In Florida

Posted on February 6th, 2018 by

ST. PETER, Minn. – One season removed from its first NCAA quarterfinal appearance since 2009 and in the wake of an Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national singles title in October, the Gustavus men’s tennis team has turned the page and has its sights set on a brand-new spring season. The Gusties, winners of 295 consecutive MIAC matches and 29 straight league titles, are aware of the target on their backs and are taking the necessary steps to face the challenges ahead.

“The guys do a nice job on their own to make sure they’re taking care of their bodies and working on their games in between season,” said Head Coach Tommy Valentini, who is in his ninth season at the helm. “We feel good about the intrinsically motivated, self-directed culture that they’ve developed.”

Valentini and the 16th-ranked Gusties are at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. preparing for four matches over the next two days, starting the spring season Wednesday afternoon against Southeastern and Palm Beach Atlantic. The Gusties then face Florida Tech and St. Leo on Thursday afternoon. The early portion of the season continues Feb. 17 with a pair of matches at home and then the marquee event of the month is Feb. 23-25 when Gustavus hosts the ITA Division III National Indoor Championships as it welcomes seven of the top teams in the country to compete for the title.

“Those teams will be well-prepared,” Valentini said. “As we look at that first chunk of the season from the start of practice up to the indoor championships, gaining experience against tough competition and trusting our approach no matter what the results are, I think are big keys for this group coming together. And enjoying it. We need to cherish these opportunities and use every one of them to keep making progress.”

The Gusties return all six singles and five of six doubles players from their NCAA tournament lineup last season, led by 2017 ITA Oracle Cup national singles champion Mohanad Alhouni (Sr., Tripoli, Libya). Alhouni enters the season as the No. 1 Division III singles player according to the ITA rankings. Zach Ekstein (Sr., Eagan, Minn.), who battled to win the fifth and match-deciding point over Chicago in last season’s NCAA regional final, enters the season ranked No. 18 in singles. Chase Johnson (Jr., Golden Valley, Minn.) is also ranked among the ITA’s top 50 singles players at No. 35. The doubles pairing of Alhouni and Patrick Whaling (Jr., Manikob Sabot, Va.), who captured the ITA Midwest Regional title in the fall, enter the season ranked No. 6 in the country. Other returning players from last season’s top lineup include Tommy Entwistle (Sr., Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Yassine Derbani (So., Casablanca, Morocco), who played Nos. 4 and 6 singles, respectively, last year.

“We have a deep group but we still have some guys that are moving into new leadership roles,” Valentini said. “In our room we have a really clear sense of what the result goals are and then we just try to set those aside and think about what we need to do as players, as people, as a group, and as a community in terms of things that are in our control on a really day-to-day micro scale to put us in that position. You look at what the top of our conference looks like and what the top of Division III looks like, we certainly know there are no guarantees. We certainly know that we have to put a good version of ourselves out there when it’s time to compete and feel good about that. The line between winning and losing is so fine, we just know we want to be as prepared for those moments as we can, and that’s what this group has done.”

2018 Roster | 2018 Schedule | 2017 Stats

 

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