Ryba excels in Gophers top singles spot

The sophomore is 8-3 in singles so far this spring and is also 9-2 in doubles.

Sophomore Caroline Ryba prepares to return the ball to Penn State in the Baseline Tennis Center Friday, March 18.

Kathryn Chlystek, Daily File Photo

Sophomore Caroline Ryba prepares to return the ball to Penn State in the Baseline Tennis Center Friday, March 18.

Jack White

Caroline Ryba has established herself as a driving force behind Minnesota’s winning record — and she’s only a sophomore.
 
 
The Glenview, Ill., native is 8-3 in singles this spring and is playing in the No. 1 spot for the Gophers (10-6, 2-1 Big Ten).
 
 
“She’s just our best player,” head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “Best player plays [No.] 1 [singles]. She’s ready for it. She’s earned it, and she’s doing a great job up there as a sophomore, just holding her own and doing well and beating a lot of really good players.”
 
 
Ryba played in the top-two singles spots last year as a freshman and earned a 14-7 record in the spring. 
 
 
She also had a 10-7 doubles record last spring. With redshirt senior Julia Courter as a partner, the pair have gone 9-2 largely in the No. 2 doubles spot.
 
 
“Playing doubles with Caroline is always fun,” Courter said. “She’s a really good player, and she’s one of my great friends here, so it’s just a blast. We always laugh on the court, and we kind of know a lot about each other on and off the court, have a really good relationship.”
 
 
At the beginning of the month, Ryba earned the first Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors of her career after playing well against Wisconsin and Utah.
 
 
She went 4-0 over two duals that weekend, including a singles victory over then-No. 44 Lauren Chyphya of Wisconsin, a feat that pushed the Gophers past the Badgers. She was the first Minnesota women’s tennis player to win the award since March 2012.
 
 
“It was a surprise,” Ryba said. “It was kind of not even on my radar, and then I just kind of found out. … To me, clinching that Wisconsin match was enough.”
 
 
The victory over Wisconsin started a six-match winning streak for Ryba, which No. 3 Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State ended on March 20.
 
 
The loss caused Ryba to drop out of the rankings for women’s singles players, but she’ll look to move back in this weekend against Nebraska and Iowa.
 
 
“We think she can be an All-American,” Merzbacher said. “She’s just on her way.”