Ganger and the Mann

Players can preach teamwork, say they back each other up and present a front of perfect chemistry, but when the best part of their tennis team is a doubles duo, you know they are telling the truth.

That duo is junior Miron Mann and sophomore Zach Ganger, the U’s top doubles team and a surprise entrant in the NCAA tournament last season as underclassmen. They traveled a long way to get to the U, Mann hailing from Ontario, Canada, and Ganger a native of Jacksonville, Fla.

Coming out of obscurity, the pair stormed through the 2004-2005 season and earned their way to the NCAAs-Utah’s first sniff of the tournament since 1997-where they fell to a team from Georgia Tech in the first round.

“At the beginning (of college), you don’t know what to expect,” Ganger said. “But as the year went on, we knew we paired up really well together and started gaining confidence in each other.”

That confidence has parlayed itself into high expectations for this year, as the Ute team brings plenty of talent onto the court in 2006. Ganger and Mann were ranked the No. 12 doubles team in the nation by a preseason poll, and with those lofty accolades comes a renewed desire to make it to the next level.

“It was more of an honor than anything just to go (to the NCAAs) as a freshman from such a young team,” Ganger said. “It was a really good experience, and college tennis is all about experience. (This year) it’s not so much the goal of being there. It’s expected.”

While they have only been competing together for one season, Ganger and Mann have found that they compliment each other well and that leads to success nearly every match.

“Whenever we play well, we play well both at the same time,” Mann said. “That’s really important.”

Ganger agrees that to thrive on the court they need to be on the same page, something that is accomplished by keeping open channels of communication.

“We talk a lot,” Ganger said. “After every point we talk and say, ‘Hey, great shot,’ or ‘That’s OK, you’ll get the next one.'”

Unfortunately for the pair and the rest of the Utes, the high expectations may have to wait for a little while. Last Saturday, Mann and Ganger dispatched the doubles team from 28th-ranked Boise State before Mann had to pull out of the tournament finals with painful shoulder tendonitis, a condition that has been plaguing him since October.

“It felt pretty good in the morning match but tightened up in the afternoon,” Mann said. “I had an MRI to see what’s going on, so we’ll find out.”

He’s not sure if he will be able to play this weekend, but should Mann be able to continue playing at a high level, it looks like the team as a whole is good enough to make a statement in the Mountain West Conference after finishing fifth last season. And that’s where the teamwork comes into play.

“You can have a team that’s full of talent, but if you don’t have teamwork, you can’t compete at the top level,” Ganger said. “We get pumped up and get behind one another. We’re probably one of the most intense teams out there.”

Ganger, Mann and the Utes will show off their teamwork at home for the first time this year on Friday, when they host in-state rivals Weber State and Utah State. The Wildcats visit Eccles Tennis Center at noon, while the Aggies will square off against Utah at 5 p.m.

[email protected]