Women’s tennis looks to capitalize on their time off between seasons

The Gophers’ women’s tennis team closes out their season in November and looks forward to the spring season.

Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher returns the ball during her singles match against the University of South Dakota at the Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 9.

Jack Rodgers, Daily File Photo

Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher returns the ball during her singles match against the University of South Dakota at the Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 9.

by Danielle Pederson

Fall season is coming to a close for Gophers’ women’s tennis, and the team is beginning to prepare for the spring season. Match play ends Nov. 11 for the women’s team.

The team looks to carry forward their successes from the first few tournaments of this year, as well as maintain their high level of intensity. Each match, the Gophers give themselves a chance to win by taking control of the points early.

“The intensity has been through the roof,” said senior Bita Mancera, “We’ve been working on being the aggressive team.”

After their tournament in mid-November, the Gophers have a long stretch of time without match-play. But Mancera said the team is inspired to remain motivated.

“We don’t want to lose all the work we have put in,” said Mancera, “We woke up at 6 a.m., we put in all the hard work and it carries on to the season so we’re not going to take any days off.”

Head coach Catrina Thompson keeps her players in the match mentality by simulating match play in practice. She engages the team by switching up drills and not falling into a mundane routine.

“One thing we’ve done this year that has helped a lot has been creating a more competitive environment within our practices. We do a lot of … relays and conditioning,” said senior, Caitlyn Merzbacher, “Having people compete against themselves keeps us engaged. We’re Division-I athletes. We thrive on competition.”

Assisting in this effort to keep the team focused are newly named captains, Merzbacher and Annemarie Emme. The two seniors will wear the “C” this spring.

Merzbacher hopes to model some qualities of previous captains she has looked up to including Maja Vujic, Mehvish Safdar, and Caroline Ryba. She admired their ability to lead by example.

“I try to do what is right and what I think is going to be best for the team and hopefully people will follow,” Merzbacher said.

Though it is a challenging part of the season, Merzbacher looks forward to time off between the fall and spring seasons. She said she hopes to use it to the Gophers’ advantage.

“It’s definitely a part of the season where we can get ahead of other teams. Every team has that certain amount of time off and I think whichever team uses that the best is going to be ahead in the spring season,” Merzbacher said.

The team looks to capitalize on this two-month break in competitive matches with other schools and understands the importance of this gap in play.

The Gophers are driven, and plan to remain focused and work harder than other universities. The women say they are already excited to get back onto the court in two months.

“I’m most looking forward to getting back out on the court and competing,” said Merzbacher, “The fall is definitely different than the spring. It’s a lot of individual [match play] and I really just love the spring because you get to play for something bigger than yourself. To play for your whole team gives it something special.”

The women’s team opens their spring season at UCLA on Jan. 26 and 27.