Gophers open season with Gopher Invitational, see room to improve

Tereza Brichacova won the top singles division during the weekend tourney.

Minnesota junior Tereza Brichacova hits a forehand against Iowa State on Sunday at Baseline Tennis Center.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota junior Tereza Brichacova hits a forehand against Iowa State on Sunday at Baseline Tennis Center.

Betsy Helfand

Gophers head coach Chuck Merzbacher said Sunday  his team is “light years” ahead of where it was at this time last year.

His squad kicked off its fall season this weekend with the Gopher Invitational and had the tournament’s top singles finisher in both the first and second divisions.

“We really got a lot done this weekend as far as competing,” Merzbacher said, “and our fitness level is pretty strong.”

Junior Tereza Brichacova won the tournament’s top singles division Sunday 6-2, 3-6, 1-0 (5). She said her goal heading into the tournament was to win.

“I knew that there were pretty good girls playing, so I really had to try my best every single match,” Brichacova said. “I’m really satisfied with this match.”

Merzbacher said Brichacova had a good tournament in the top division.

“Her ball is even heavier and stronger than it was last year,” he said.

Going into Sunday, Minnesota was guaranteed a winner in the second singles division. Gophers junior Aria Lambert and Gophers sophomore Jessika Mozia went head-to-head, and Mozia came out on top 6-3, 6-0.

Freshman Maja Vujic came in second in the third division.

Senior Natallia Pintusava and junior Julia Courter placed third in the top doubles division. Sophomore Paula Rincon Otero and Brichacova came in ninth in the same division.

Merzbacher said he thought the team competed really well in doubles. Brichacova added that the weekend was “pretty good” for the team.

“There were some small things that we now know that we can do better,” she said. “So we’re for sure going to apply them to our practice.”

Merzbacher said coming to the net and finishing off points are two things the team has to work on going forward.

Fall competition allows the Gophers a chance to start establishing their lineup and to look at their doubles pairs.

“This is a very important part of the year,” Merzbacher said, “and we want to make the most of it.”