Minnesota shines in Gopher Invitational

Senior Tereza Brichacova won the top singles flight over the weekend.

by Sam Kraemer

Minnesota headed into the Gopher Invitational intending to set the bar for the upcoming season.

The Gophers did just that, finishing each day with winning records in both singles and doubles. Three Gophers reached the title match in their respective singles flights.

Senior Tereza Brichacova won the Minnesota Flight Singles, the top flight, with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Iowa’s Shelby Talcott.

She said she was satisfied with the Gophers’ performance.

“I was actually surprised that I played very well,” Brichacova said. “But I think we set [the bar] pretty high, and we are really satisfied with our game. Everyone proved that they can play pretty well in singles.”

Senior Aria Lambert finished second in the Gopher Flight for singles matches. Lambert and Brichacova together finished in third place in the Minnesota doubles bracket.

Head coach Chuck Merzbacher said his team exceeded his expectations over the weekend.

“Overall, even in the back draw matches today, everyone looked good,” Merzbacher said.

Merzbacher said before the tournament that he would pay significant attention to the underclassmen. After tournament play concluded, he said the newcomers on his team played really well despite playing many matches throughout the weekend.

“They have to get used to some things, but as far as competing and being in their matches, they did a great job,” he said.

Brichacova agreed with her coach’s critique, noting that the team has great fundamentals to build on.

One of the newcomers is freshman Caroline Ryba, who finished third in the Gophers Flight with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Kentucky’s Stephanie Fox.

Ryba said she was happy to get back into rhythm and thought she played well in her collegiate debut.

“I went in expecting it to be different and new, but difficult and fun,” she said. “But I guess it went better than I expected.”

Ryba also said she enjoys the structure of Merzbacher’s practices, which are very upbeat.

“I definitely like how the … coaches are positive all the time,” she said. “There’s always a part of practice where we get the chance to work with one of the coaches on what we want to work on, which is very useful.”

With the first competition in the books, Merzbacher said the competition for the lineup could prove to be beneficial come Big Ten play.

“I don’t know right now,” he said, regarding where he thinks his team ranks in the Big Ten. “But we have a lot of depth.”