Women hoping to mirror men’s success at ITA

The Gophers menâÄôs tennis team is coming off its most successful showing of the year. Now itâÄôs the womenâÄôs turn. The womenâÄôs team hopes to follow the menâÄôs breakout performances this weekend at the ITA Midwest Regional . Around 40 schools, with top Big Ten teams like Northwestern and other schools from across the Midwest will make up the dense competition the Gophers will face. âÄúAlmost every year before this tournament starts, I tell the players that this is a tournament where you canâÄôt be afraid and be scared and expect to be successful,âÄù Coach Tyler Thomson said. âÄúYou gotta go out to play to win, and you gotta play aggressively because most of the players in this tournament are not going to give you anything for free. YouâÄôre going to have to beat them.âÄù Senior Karina Chiarelli said this weekend will be important for the team. âÄúThe best teams are there,âÄù she said. The goal for some teams, like Northwestern, is to qualify for the National Indoor Championships , but Minnesota is being more considerate. âÄúItâÄôs more than that for a lot of players,âÄù Thomson said. âÄúMainly itâÄôs an opportunity to compete against the very best in our part of the country. ItâÄôs one-stop shopping for the best players in the region,âÄù Thomson said. But itâÄôs hard to imagine anyone from Minnesota complaining should any Gophers, like Chiarelli, go all the way. After success at last yearâÄôs regional and a bundle of top finishes this year , the senior hopes to get to the semifinals, if not further. âÄúFor me, itâÄôs going to be the last regional because IâÄôm a senior, so IâÄôm very excited to play,âÄù Chiarelli said. Chiarelli said she plans to stay focused while sticking with her style and game plan. ItâÄôs worked so far. Staying focused and keeping fresh, however, can be a challenge over a five-day span in an indoor tennis facility. âÄúIt certainly can be a grind,âÄù Thomson said. âÄúYou gotta be prepared physically if you want to go deep into the tournament. And I think our team is prepared physically. I canâÄôt imagine there are any teams that are better prepared physically than us,âÄù Thomson said. The team also realizes the benefits of being focused and remaining in the competition. âÄúIf you have the fortune to advance far in this tournament, youâÄôre going to go into the pre-season with more confidence and more belief in yourself,âÄù Thomson said. Three singles and three doubles teams have already been entered into the main draw , which certainly increases the chances that at least someone will break through. Chiarelli will team up with newcomer Niltooli Wilkins in the doubles main draw. For Wilkins, itâÄôs just the beginning. The regional is her first tournament of the year. But as for Chiarelli, this is her final regional tournament in which she can prove herself yet again. âÄúSheâÄôs very excited to play,âÄù Chiarelli said. âÄúIâÄôm excited too. This is going to be her first [regional] tournament and my last tournament.âÄù