With a week of practice under its belt, the GopherâÄôs womenâÄôs tennis team is preparing to kick off its 2011 fall season with the Gopher Invitational this weekend.
The focus this year?
Fundamentals, according to head coach Tyler Thompson. He said that although he put a strong emphasis on the basics of the game last year, he plans to make it an even bigger focus this year.
Minnesota will get its first crack at live competition Friday at the Baseline Tennis Center. The tournament runs through Sunday.
Fundamentals will not only be a key focus for the Gophers, but it is also what Thompson said he plans to bring into play when forcing opponents to make errors.
âÄúItâÄôs easy to go for a winner. We have to dare opponents to make silly decisions and force them to be true to the fundamentals,âÄù he said.
Another key focus this season will be having each individual player identify her strengths and weaknesses and learn how to play with them.
The players, as individuals, not only need to be aware of their technical performance but also their mental performance, Thompson said.
Although unforced errors and mistakes are not favorable, Thompson said he is taking it upon himself to be sure his players understand they cannot beat themselves up over mistakes. Rather, he wants his players to âÄúbe satisfied with the basic things and take pride in doing them well.âÄù
While it is important for the team to focus on each woman as an individual tennis player, an effort will be made to drive home the sense of teamwork.
Thompson implements drills in which the team cannot verbally communicate, they must solely rely on each other for support and be unselfish competitors.
He said those drills raise team awareness, which he said he believes is essential in college athletics.
This year, the team will look to the two top returning singles players, Maqdalena Wiecha and Doron Muravnik, both of whom may return to action this weekend. The tournamentâÄôs final lineup will be released Thursday.
One group sure to see court time this weekend is the freshmen. Thompson said he is excited to see the rookies get their feet wet.
There will be a mix of players competing at the Gopher Invitational. Since tennis is a spring sport, the results of the tournament will not affect the teamsâÄô overall rankings, only the rankings of individual players.
Although Thompson said he wants to do well, the tournament will be more for getting players out on the court in game situations and preparing for the spring season.