Vile photo

Sebastian Vile and his University of Minnesota men's tennis team will play a dual with Marquette at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Rochester Athletic Club. (Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota)

It wasn’t long ago that Sebastian Vile was gazing at the University of Minnesota men’s tennis team and only imagining what it would be like to join them.

Some day, he thought, that might just be him.

Then in eighth-grade but already playing for the Rochester Mayo varsity, Vile had gotten his close-up look at the Gophers as they played a dual at the Rochester Athletic Club against Marquette. Playing in Rochester was partially a tip of the hat to then-Gophers sophomore tennis player Eric Frueh, a former Rochester Century star, 

Now, seven years later, here the Gophers are again, about to descend on Rochester. And guess who’s on their roster?

Yes, Sebastian Vile. The 2018 high school state singles champion is a sophomore and part of a Gophers tennis team that begins its spring season at 5 p.m. Saturday, again taking on Marquette to kick things off. The event is free and open to the public.

“This all feels kind of surreal to me, coming back to Rochester to play,” said Vile, whose family hosted some Gophers players back in 2013 as part of the team’s two-day stay here. “It feels like I’ve come full circle. I remember participating in a hitting clinic that the Gophers put on (during that 2013 stay). I remember thinking then how cool it would be to be a part of that team.”

Vile isn’t left wondering anymore. And yes, his experience has been as cool as he’d imagined, playing at Minnesota stacking up in almost every way for him.

“It’s been a good fit; I’m really enjoying it,” said Vile, a psychology major. “Every day, we come in and practice hard, study, do our school work, and hang out with the guys on the team and bond together. Also, I can’t say enough about our coaches. They give us a chance to achieve our best in tennis. Plus, being at Minnesota is close to home. I think it’s a perfect fit.”

Vile was speaking from Tampa Bay, Fla., while being interviewed. He and his team were there for a week, part of two training and bonding trips the team takes each year. Over spring break, they’re headed to New Oreans, a trip that will include a dual with Tulane University.

“This just gives us a chance to get out of Minneapolis for a little bit and be with our team,” Vile said. “We do lots of training (while gone). We’ve got to get in shape for what is a long and grueling season.”

Vile says it’s too soon to predict where he will be in this season’s lineup and that positionings for Saturday were also up for grabs.

A year ago, when Minnesota finished a disappointing 16-10 overall and 4-7 in the Big Ten, Vile was 11-10 in singles and 8-5 in doubles. He did that while mostly playing No. 6 singles and 2 and 3 doubles spots.

Vile, who finished his high school senior season unbeaten, says he’s made nice strides since joining the Gophers.

That’s been essential, with playing at the Big Ten level a massive jump.

“There was a bit of a learning curve that went with it,” Vile said. “But I feel like I’m on the right path to being the best player I can be. I’m nowhere near as good as I can be, but I feel like I’m (moving) in the right direction to keep getting better. I’m surrounded by nothing but mentors and role models here.”

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