Thomson named co-Big Ten coach of the year

Aaron Blake

Minnesota women’s tennis coach Tyler Thomson was named co-Big Ten coach of the year Thursday, sharing the award with Purdue coach Matt Iandolo.

In his second season at Minnesota, Thomson led one of the biggest turnarounds in Big Ten history. After finishing the last year’s campaign tied for last at 1-9, Thomson’s 2003 squad went 9-1 and won the regular season title.

In addition, the Gophers advanced to last weekend’s conference tournament title match, falling to Northwestern 4-2.

Minnesota earned a berth into the NCAA tournament beginning next weekend for the first time since the 2000 season.

Thomson declined to comment on his award.

Also earning conference honors for the Gophers were sophomore Angela Buergis, and junior Valerie Vladea. Both were named to the 12-player all-Big Ten team.

“What coaches really look at is who the best twelve players in the conference are,” Thomson said. “It’s a great honor for this school to have two players on that all-conference team, and they both deserved it.”

Buergis, a transfer from William & Mary, finished the conference schedule with a 9-1 conference record playing at No. 1 singles in her first season in the maroon and gold. She also notched a perfect 8-0 doubles record, teaming with freshman Nischela Reddy.

Vladea tallied a 6-4 mark in Big Ten play at No. 2 singles. The award is her third straight. Vladea was also 6-4 in conference doubles action, mostly paired with Michaela Havelkova.

Men’s hockey

As expected, Minnesota’s men’s hockey program has announced the signing of goaltender Kellen Briggs to a national letter of intent to play for the two-time defending NCAA Champion Gophers beginning with the 2003-2004 season.

Briggs is a 5-foot-11, 190-pound goaltender from Colorado Springs, Colo. Briggs has been a member of the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League for the past three seasons. He holds franchise records for career victories, saves in a single game and consecutive wins. In three seasons, he compiled a 57-45-5 record with a 3.50 goals-against-average and .901 save percentage. This past season, Briggs led the USHL in minutes played with 2,529 and saves with 1,422. He played under current Gophers assistant coach Bob Motzko during his first season with the Stampede in 2000-01.

“We are extremely pleased to have Kellen join our program,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “With Travis (Weber) and Justin (Johnson) becoming upperclassmen, we felt it time to bring in another goaltender. Kellen had a great deal of experience and success in the USHL and we believe he will have an outstanding career at the University of Minnesota.”

Women’s golf

Minnesota’s women’s golf program announced today the signing of Louise Fleming to a national letter of intent. Fleming will be eligible to play for the Gophers for the 2003-04 season.

Fleming, a native of Kelso Roxburghshire, Scotland, is a member of the Border Ladies Country Team and on the Scottish Girls National Squad. Fleming won the South of Scotland Ladies Championship and has been the Border Girls stroke play and match play champion for the last three years. She also won the Scottish Girls Nick Faldo Junior Series in 2002 and finished fifth in the national final.

“We’re very excited to bring Louise to the University of Minnesota,” coach Katie Weiss said. “She’s one of the best young players in Scotland and will provide immediate depth to our team next season.”

Women’s track and field

A handful of Gophers women’s track and field athletes competed in the Tommie Twilight meet in St. Paul on Wednesday evening. Sophomore Sharyl Schutz won the 100-meter hurdles in a time of 15.19 seconds to highlight the Gophers’ performances.

Schutz posted a faster time of 14.95 seconds in the 100-meter hurdle prelims and added a sixth-place showing in the 200-meter dash in 26.73.

A pair of Minnesota runners placed second in events. Freshman Jacki Hildebrandt took second in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:05.28, while freshman Harper McConnell was the runner-up in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 18:0.30.