After home tournament, Minnesota travels to Philadelphia

Only 10 players will make the trip after the entire team competed at home.

Zach Eisendrath

The first weekend of Minnesota’s women’s tennis team’s long march to a potential NCAA Tournament bid this spring was, by all accounts, a success. The second weekend, however, is where the Gophers should see the stiffest competition of their young season.

After hosting its home tournament last weekend, Minnesota hits the road for the first time this fall, as eight members of the team head to Philadelphia for the Cissie Leary Invitational hosted by the Pennsylvania. Play begins today and lasts through Sunday afternoon.

The three-day individual tournament, which is made up of one large singles draw and one doubles bracket, will give Minnesota its greatest challenge yet. Teams competing alongside the Gophers include: Penn, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, Massachusetts, Arizona, Columbia, Temple and Big Ten foes Ohio State and Penn State.

“We for sure have the ability to advance deep into the tournament in both draws, there is no doubt about that,” coach Tyler Thomson said. “It’s a strong field but we’re a strong team and we’ll do well.”

Back in 2003, the tandem of Nischela Reddy and Angela Buergis finished second in the doubles draw – the Gophers’ best finish in the tournament. But Thomson said it wouldn’t surprise him if a couple of his players are still standing Sunday at the conclusion of the tournament in both flights.

It will be left up to the eight Minnesota players participating in the event – seniors Ida Malmberg and Lindsay Risebrough, juniors Danielle Mousseau and Alex Seaton, sophomores Mariana Spilca and Karina Chiarelli and freshmen Mikayla Rogers and Tijana Koprivica – to build upon the Gophers’ success in Philadelphia.

Perhaps the most surprising name on that list is Rogers. Thomson said after two top players couldn’t make the trip – Jane Anderson (injuries) and Ashley Schellhas (personal reasons) – the freshman earned the final roster sport after an impressive week of practice.

“I think she has a great deal of potential and has a great attitude and work ethic,” he said. “It will be a good experience for her.”

Thomson said one of his main objectives for the weekend is to find out how new doubles combinations work out. With seven doubles teams at its disposal at the Gopher Invitational, Minnesota posted a 15-13 mark in doubles. Thomson is switching a majority of the teams he used last weekend, in hopes that new combinations will produce more favorable results.

Malmberg will be teamed with Koprivica, Risebrough with Seaton and Chiarelli with Rodgers. Thomson said he is keeping the tandem of Mousseau and Spilca together for the second straight weekend after the duo won their flight last weekend.

Mousseau said that regardless of the higher level of competition this weekend, the Gophers should succeed if the team puts in the effort.

“We can expect the competition might be a little bit better,” she said. “But we should continue to have success if we fight hard and compete hard.”

Malmberg, who said she wants to use the fall season to work on her intensity on the court, agreed that the competition will be tough, but said early season tournaments on the road are crucial in gaining confidence for when matches really count come spring.

“It’s another long weekend, I hope everybody comes prepared,” she said. “But it’s going to be a fun first trip for the team.”