Gates transfers to Notre Dame

Tris Wykes

Tiffany Gates, formerly a University junior and a standout player on the women’s tennis team, has transferred to Notre Dame.
Gates, a two-time All-Big Ten player, left the University in late May after being released from her scholarship agreement. She began attending summer school classes at Notre Dame on May 28.
Gates, 21, said she transferred because she wanted to play for a team with a good chance to win an NCAA national team championship. Notre Dame finished sixth in the country last season and returns four of its top six players.
The Gophers were 17-28 and earned a pair of seventh-place finishes in the Big Ten during Gates’ first two seasons. The team improved to 16-8 and 9-4 in conference play last season, tying for third place in the Big Ten.
Despite Minnesota’s recent progress, Gates said she wanted a chance to compete for a stronger team.
“My goals have changed,” Gates said by phone from her family’s home in Grandville, Mich. “I’ve always wanted to be successful but before it was mostly individual goals. Now, I’d like to be part of a successful team. Minnesota’s improved a lot but I don’t think they can (win a national title) in the next couple of years.”
Gates is immediately eligible to play for Notre Dame and has two years of eligibility remaining. She redshirted last season after suffering a shoulder injury but said she is close to a full recovery and expects to play for the Irish in the fall.
Gates said she first considered transferring to Notre Dame in February and never contacted other universities.
“[Notre Dame has] great tennis, tough academics and it’s close to home,” said Gates, who made the decision to transfer in April. “Most people transfer because they’re not happy, but I was happy at Minnesota. I just wanted to take this opportunity, and I hope people understand I have to do what’s best for me.”
Gates said Gophers’ women’s tennis coach Martin Novak and women’s athletics director Chris Voelz were agreeable to the transfer and released Gates from her scholarship in March.
“We’ll miss [Gates],” Novak said. “But it’s a chance for her to get a Notre Dame degree and be on a national championship team. How can you deny someone that opportunity?”
As a provision of her transfer, Gates, a communications major, is attending class at Notre Dame five days a week, a commute of more than 200 miles each day from her Michigan home. Gates said she expects to sign a scholarship agreement with Notre Dame upon successful completion of two required math classes in late July.
Because Gates had not taken any math classes at the University, Notre Dame officials were reluctant to admit her. Gates was granted admission only a week before she enrolled in summer school.
“I went through a couple of months of not knowing what I was going to do, and that was tough,” Gates said. “I couldn’t really tell anyone about (the transfer) until I knew for sure. I had to leave without really telling anyone goodbye.”
Tarah Elkins, a freshman on the women’s tennis team last season, said she learned of Gates’ departure two weeks before she left.
“I’m sort of indifferent about it,” Elkins said. “It didn’t seem like (Gates) was exactly happy at Minnesota, and it was kind of like she wasn’t a part of our team because she didn’t travel with us.
“It’s the loss of a good player but if she’d be happier somewhere else, then I say best of luck to her.”
When Gates signed with the Gophers in 1993, she was one of the country’s top junior players and the most highly regarded recruit of Novak’s career at the University.
She quickly became the team’s top singles player and was heralded as the cornerstone around which the Gophers program would be rebuilt.
At the end of her sophomore season, Gates became the first Gophers women’s player to qualify for the NCAA Singles Championships and finished the season at No. 69 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles rankings.
Gates last competed for the Gophers in January at the Milwaukee Classic tournament and was forced to default her opening singles match because of her injured right shoulder. She finished with a 1995-96 singles record of 3-6 and a doubles mark of 5-5.
Gates leaves Minnesota with a career singles record of 46-28 and a doubles record of 35-30.
At Notre Dame, Gates will add firepower to an imposing lineup. Last season, the Irish were 23-7 and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals under seventh-year Coach Jay Lauderback.
Notre Dame’s standout is No. 1 singles player Jennifer Hall, who was 33-11 last season and was No. 8 in the country in the ITA singles rankings. Marisa Velasco was 32-4 at the No. 4 slot. Both were freshmen last season.