2019 Men’s Tennis Preview

Posted on January 31st, 2019 by

The 2019 Gustavus men's tennis team. (photo courtesy of SPX Sports)

SAINT PETER, Minn. – The Gustavus men’s tennis team, which starts the season ranked No. 8 in the nation according to the Jan. 15 ITA poll, is set to begin its 2019 spring season with a new look and is excited for the challenges that lie ahead.

The new look stems from the fact that the Gusties graduated seniors from last year’s squad who finished the year occupying the Nos. 1, 2, and 6 singles slots, along with playing a part on all three doubles teams.

The exciting challenges that lie ahead include defending the MIAC championship – which has reached 30 consecutive titles and 52 overall – and continuing to face a schedule that includes a number of regionally and national ranked teams.

“This group is very committed to our approach and our systems, both tactically and more importantly, our culture’s values,” Head Coach Tommy Valentini said, who is in his 10th season at the helm. “We’re still learning a lot about ourselves and what we’re going to look and feel like when we start playing dual matches.”

Top returners include seniors Chase Johnson (Golden Valley, Minn.) and Patrick Whaling (Manakin Sabot, Va.), who won the Fall ITA Midwest Regional doubles title and placed third at the ITA Cup, earning All-America status. Juniors Yassine Derbani (Casablanca, Morocco) and Michael O’Neil (Edina, Minn.) are the only other returners with postseason experience.

“We pretty much had the same group out on the court on match day for the past two years,” Valentini acknowledged. “This has been a really exciting challenge for our program and the guys that are returning. They have taken it upon themselves to accept new leadership roles. The seniors and juniors have been great and the sophomores have been wonderful as well, but I think an important piece is adding new team members who are not only accomplished players but also the right guys for our culture. I can’t say enough about the new group and how they’ve done everything we’ve asked of them and bought into our philosophy and values. Everybody that’s back is in a new role.”

First-years Nicholas Aney (Rochester, Minn.), Joseph Punnoose (Bloomington, Minn.), and Indraneel Raut (Oshkosh, Wis.) all saw some success at the Fall ITA Regional and make up half of the freshman class. Last fall, Aney teamed with Derbani in doubles and took second place at the regional championships.

“We certainly want to establish the way we play in the doubles,” Valentini said. “We have all new combinations this year from what we used a year ago. Despite the fact that Chase and Patrick had a tremendous fall and played a lot of tennis together, they haven’t played in a dual match together since they were freshmen. Trying to get going on the doubles will be a big priority. From the singles side, it’s trying to mature mentally and emotionally when we compete. We just need to stay present and in the moment.”

The Gusties start the dual match season Saturday as a split squad at North Dakota and Concordia-Moorhead. They then head to Florida next week for three matches and two scrimmages. The first home matches are Feb. 16 against Bethel and Augustana.

“This group has a really fun feel to it with some newness and excitement,” Valentini said. “We always feel like we’re standing on the shoulders of the guys that have come before us in this program who have helped us build our playing and culture to where it is now.”

2019 Roster

2019 Schedule

2018 Stats

 

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