Talent will not be scarce as Gophers head to Illinois

Zach Eisendrath

According to Minnesota women’s tennis coach Tyler Thomson, its time for individuals on his team to start putting together eye-opening performances.

For the first time this fall, the Gophers will get ample opportunities to turn heads when they compete against a loaded field at the Wildcat Invitational in Evanston, Ill. this weekend.

For Minnesota to be an elite Big Ten team this spring, Thomson said the Gophers need to beat teams they aren’t expected to beat.

In order to gain the confidence necessary to accomplish that feat, Thomson said his players need to start pulling “upsets” during the fall individual season.

“I’d like us to be competitive with and hopefully get some victories over opponents we aren’t supposed to beat,” Thomson said.

“Last year we beat who we were supposed to beat, we came very close to the teams we weren’t supposed to beat, but we didn’t beat them. That’s what we need to do this year. We need to upset some people. And if we can do that in the fall, it’s going to give our individuals and our team some confidence to make that happen in the spring.”

With three SEC teams and four other Big Ten teams competing with Minnesota in multi-singles and doubles-flights this weekend, the 10 Gophers traveling to the campus of Northwestern University will have plenty of opportunities to make waves.

Senior Danielle Mousseau said she believes Minnesota has the potential to win one, if not more, of the brackets this weekend, despite the loaded field the Gophers will go up against.

“Every tournament we’ve been in so far, at least one person on our team has won,” she said. “We want to make an impression and make sure people remember Minnesota for fighting hard and posting wins. Coming off how we ended last year, we want to come out and show our swagger.”

Swagger is exactly the quality the Gophers have been exhibiting on the tennis court this fall, particularly in doubles play.

The tandem of junior Karina Chiarelli and freshman Alessandra Ferrazzi appears to be the clear favorite to be the Gophers’ No.1 doubles team this spring. The twosome is 8-0 entering play Friday and Thomson has elected to put them in the top draw for the third straight tournament.

Thomson said the surprising sophomore duo of Jackie Sperling and Mikayla Rogers will also compete in the main draw.

The two roommates, who played sporadically last year, have impressed Thomson this fall by only losing one match together in the month of September.

“I think they’ve earned an opportunity to test themselves against the best in one of these tournaments. I’m really eager to see them. I’m excited for them,” he said.

Sperling, who didn’t play a single match of doubles in high school, credits the tandem’s success to contrasting styles. Sperling is a big baseline hitter, while Rogers gets up-close and personal at the net and is the enforcer for the team.

The pair wants to show they can hold their own against top-tier talent, Sperling said.

“We just need to play a good team and do well against them and make a statement. We want to play solid and hang in there against the bigger girls.”