Gophers find mixed success in Tulsa

Minnesota qualified eight players for the main draw, but it lost six of seven first-round matches.

by Dane Mizutani

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team saw mixed success over the weekend at the ITA Central Regional Championships in Tulsa, Okla.

The Gophers started off on the right foot and advanced three players through the qualifying round.

Julia Courter, Jessika Mozia and Aria Lambert won two matches apiece to reach the main draw, where other members had already qualified.

“We were well-represented with eight athletes in the main draw of the competition,” head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “I was really happy with that.”

The Gophers cruised through their first day on the doubles side of the tournament with a 3-1 record from their four doubles squads.

Minnesota’s top-ranked pair of Doron Muravnik and Tereza Brichacova breezed through the first two rounds, but they ultimately fell in the round of 16.

Merzbacher said his doubles groups impressed him over the weekend.

“We need our doubles play to be a strength this season, and it was one over the weekend,” he said.

Despite its success within the doubles bracket, Minnesota struggled in singles. Minnesota lost six of its seven first-round matches, and its lone win came from freshman Paula Rincon-Otero.

Rincon-Otero lost in the next round to end her run, but she did enough to impress her coach.

“She’s definitely got a lot of talent, and she’s learning how intense the college game can be,” Merzbacher said. “She still has a lot to learn, but she’s maturing every day.” 

A bulk of singles players fell into the consolation bracket after they lost in the first round. This was another area where the Gophers saw tidbits of success on the weekend.

Lambert advanced to the quarterfinals of the bracket, and Natallia Pintusava trekked through the field all the way to the final.

Pintusava didn’t compete in the final because the team had to make its flight back to the Twin Cities, but she might have earned herself a higher spot in the Gophers lineup.

“It was definitely the best fall tournament for her,” Merzbacher said. “She’s someone we will want to play pretty high this year.”

Merzbacher said at this point he has an idea of the lineup for the season, but there is still room for fluctuation.

“We’re not completely healthy yet,” he said. “We’ve still got some question marks.”