Tournament at Baseline Tennis Center the first gauge of the season for Minnesota

by Mike Mullen

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team does not start its season this weekend with the Gophers Invitational Tournament. Not if you listen to coach Tyler Thomson.

“I think starting anew is more of a practice thing,” Thomson said. “And we’re starting to accept that and develop it. I think we’d be putting the cart before the horse if we focused on matches right away.”

But Thomson said he knows that this event, which has individual players and doubles teams competing in flighted tournaments, is going to be meaningful to his players. Minnesota will play to host to five non-Big Ten teams, including Gustavus Adolphus and Drake.

The tournament begins today at 9 a.m., but no Gophers are in action until 11 a.m. It runs all day today through Sunday, culminating in the doubles championship matches at 9:30 a.m. and singles championship matches at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

While Big Ten team competition does not start until January, the results of the Gophers Invitational will factor into the national rankings.

“The fall schedule is very important if you’re trying to establish yourself on the national scene,” Thomson said. “(The fall season) is going to be a new experience for almost the whole team, since only two of our current players played in the fall last year.”

One of the players who will see her first fall competition this weekend is Jane Anderson, a freshman from Edina, Minn. Anderson said that despite – or perhaps because of – her lack of experience, she’s not nervous about how she’ll play.

“(Thomson) told us to just have fun and be relaxed,” Anderson said. “There are no expectations for us now. This is a starting point for us to base things off of.”

Anderson will be playing her singles in the second flight, and is among a trio of freshmen – including Marina Bugaenco and Danielle Mousseau – that Thomson has high hopes for.

“Obviously, I’m a little unfamiliar with our freshmen and their ability to compete,” he said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me if any of our three freshmen played well and won their flight.”

Playing in the top flight of singles for the Gophers will be junior Nischela Reddy, sophomore Lindsay Risebrough and sophomore Ida Malmberg.

Malmberg played on last year’s team, which was made up mostly of walk-ons. She said she can already feel the team is ready to go in a different direction.

“If you look at our record last year, it wasn’t that good,” Malmberg said. “But I really enjoyed being around these girls, and I still do. They’re like a family to me now.”

Thomson said that while for him, the season started on the first day of practice, tomorrow will be the team’s first chance to see its work fleshed out on the court.

“The focus of our team has been on building a good environment,” Thomson said. “And it’s more about the process. Now is the time we can start to apply those things.”