Gophers off to fastest start since ’97 season

While players are excited, their head coach knows there is room to grow.

Jace Frederick

The Gophers started a season 4-0 for the first time since 1997 when they took down both North Dakota and South Dakota State on Sunday.

And they did it in rather convincing fashion, sweeping three of their first four matches to open up the spring season — the first time the Gophers have tallied three shutouts in a row since 1995.

“I was surprised it’d been that long,” junior Aria Lambert said. “We did it pretty easily.”

Minnesota junior Tereza Brichacova said the undefeated start has brought an abundance of excitement to the squad. Brichacova was quick to point out that in 1997, she was only 5 years old.

Along with the excitement, the milestone has brought the Gophers confidence — a necessity for a team that finished 10-15 last season.

“We want to believe that we can get a lot done and that we can play with anyone in the country,” head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “And so I think that belief is big.

“We just want to continue to build on that and knowing that we can do really well. That confidence is everything.”

Brichacova said the team set goals at the beginning of the season, such as maintaining discipline, being supportive of one another and approaching practice with the right attitude to succeed in matches.

Those goals have been a formula for success to this point.

Merzbacher said his players try to improve every time they hit the court — a coaches’ cliché — and it’s seemingly done the trick.

“As a coach, that’s all you can ask for,” he said. “All that good discipline carries on to smart tennis, carries on to what we’re trying to do.”

The Gophers will attempt to stretch their undefeated start to six straight matches this weekend with their first road contests of the season against Washington State and Montana.

While the start is encouraging, Merzbacher said she knows it is just the beginning of a long season.

“It’s a cool stat, but we’ve got a lot to do, so we don’t want to get too wrapped up in it,” he said. “This team can be special. We have a lot of work left.”