Gopher Invitational begins building process on a high note for Minnesota

Nischela Reddy’s loss in the top flight final was one of few negatives.

Mike Mullen

For the first two and a half days of the Gopher Invitational women’s tennis tournament, Nischela Reddy was playing poker.

She kept a straight face and calm disposition throughout the tournament, even when she dropped the second set of her quarterfinal match against Lauren Hom of Gustavus Adolphus.

But when Reddy faced Drake’s Zorana Stefanovic in Sunday afternoon’s final, her even temper began to slip away.

As it turns out, a win for Reddy in the tournament’s top singles flight championship wasn’t in the cards.

Reddy had her smooth game taken apart by Stefanovic’s powerful ground strokes.

“It was really frustrating playing her,” Reddy said after losing 7-5, 4-6 and 6-2. “She has all these slices and drops, and her forehands are just these loopy balls that you have to try and do something with.”

Reddy was one of three Gophers to reach the finals in her singles bracket. In the third flight, Megan Steiger lost 6-3, 6-1 to Jenny Arnfeldt of Gustavus. Minnesota’s lone singles winner was freshman Jane Anderson, who cruised through the second flight.

In her first college tournament, Anderson didn’t drop a set and won 6-1, 6-3 in the final over Chrissy Derouin of Iowa State.

“I wasn’t feeling that confident when (the tournament) started,” Anderson said. “I was pretty much shaking on the court. But I got through my first match and was able to step up my game after that.”

On the doubles’ side of tournament play, Minnesota teams took both flights. Reddy and Lindsay Risebrough won their bracket with an 8-5 win over Iowa State’s Charlotte Ljunkrantz and Derouin.

Anderson teamed with Marina Bugaenco to win the second flight of doubles.

“We have a lot of room for improvement,” Anderson said. “This was our first time playing together, but we were communicating really well on the court.”

Gophers coach Tyler Thomson said the tournament’s level of competition is not on par with the Big Ten – but that wasn’t the point.

“The big thing we can take from this tournament is confidence,” Thomson said. “If we went to a big tournament to start our season, we’d probably have a tough time and take a few lumps.

We wanted to give these guys the opportunity to feel positive about the start of their season.”