Courter returns from injury, leads team

Julia Courter was forced out of last season after she had wrist surgery.

Dane Mizutani

Julia Courter can be heard from across the Baseline Tennis Center during competitions. Her voice echoes throughout the facility — either celebrating after a won point or cheering on her teammates.

“She brings a lot to the team,” head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “She has great energy, and she’s really positive. She sets the tone.”

It’s for that reason that the team is happy to have her back in the lineup after she missed all of last season with a left wrist injury.

“She’s very emotional on the court,” senior Natallia Pintusava said, “but that makes the rest of the team fired up.”

In her third season with the Gophers women’s tennis team, Courter has morphed into one of the steadiest and most influential competitors on the roster.

“She has one way, and that’s all-in,” Merzbacher said. “That has a positive impact across the team.”

And her on-court performance is almost as impressive as her leadership skills. Courter is 14-3 this season and is an efficient 8-2 in her last 10 contests.

“I’m feeling really comfortable with all aspects of my game,” she said. “I’m just really happy to be back this season, so that’s another thing that adds to my fire.”

Courter was a highly touted recruit out of Lawrenceville, Ga., and spent most of that season at the No. 4 singles spot. She finished with a 17-12 overall record.

She injured her wrist during her freshman season, just as she was poised for a breakout year, and had to get surgery in November of her sophomore campaign.

“I love to win and hate to lose, so not being able to help my team last year was really hard for me,” she said. “We had a lot of injuries, and I wish I could’ve stepped up for the team.”

Courter rehabbed her wrist for months and said in that time she was able to hit forehands with her right hand.

Still, she said the rehab was a long and grueling process that took a lot of mental strength.

“I thought I could do more than I could because I wanted to push myself,” she said, “but I needed to learn to slow it down so I could actually recover.”

Courter said she didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable playing until after the fall season, but she appears fully recovered now.

Since recovering, Courter has been a staple of the bottom half of the lineup. She and two teammates — junior Aria Lambert and sophomore Paula Rincon Otero — have combined for a 38-10 record at the bottom of the lineup.

“We know we have what it takes to be successful,” Courter said, “so we want to keep rolling the rest of the season.”

Merzbacher said it was tough not having Courter last season, but in a way, it might have been a blessing in disguise.

“We had to have everyone else step up and get better in her absence,” he said. “We made the best of it, but we’ve got her now, and she’s doing great.”