Saying that Minnesota has a rich history of women’s tennis would be a stretch.
The team finished its 17th season in the Big Ten conference last year in a tie for second — that’s the best ever for the Gophers. Their previous best was a third-place finish in 1996.
This could be the year that they make it over the final hump.
“I have a very good feeling about this year,” coach Martin Novak said. “The future is now for us.”
But the team is hurting. The Gophers lost three seniors from last year’s squad, but Novak says that every year can bring its challenges and that this year is no different.
“Every year the chemistry changes,” he said. “Every year is very special. You look at the history and so forth and you just have to work with the hand that you are dealt.”
Novak said that after last year’s taste of success, the team is hungry for more. He looks for his team to be near the top of the conference this season with each individual player focusing on personal improvements.
“I’m more into performance goals this season,” he said. “I’m looking for them to enjoy the matches that they are in.
“I feel good about this year. We’re progressing and learning.”
Headed to regionals
While the main concern of the team may be the upcoming Big Ten season — which starts during February — for two members of the team the upcoming regional championships in Columbus, Ohio are on the brain.
Nora Sauska and Kim Simonson will be the lone representatives for the Gophers in Columbus for the championships, which start Nov. 3. The two seniors have been selected by Novak to play singles at the regional tournament and will also combine to be the Gophers’ doubles team.
The format of the tournament is simple: You win, you stay. You lose, you go.
“Both of us know that this year is our last chance to shine,” Simonson said. “I think that we’ll be ready for it.”
Sauska and Simonson have had their faces in the spotlight already this season. The two plowed through the competition at the UNLV Invitational earlier this month to take the doubles championship in the first flight of the tournament.
Whether their early-season success helps win a first-ever Big Ten championship remains to be seen.
Brian Stensaas is a general assignments reporter and welcomes comments at [email protected]