Mozia impresses amid team’s struggles

Jessika Mozia made the title match at the Wildcat Invitational.

by Dane Mizutani

Northwestern was a thorn in the Gophers’ side all weekend — on the football field and on the tennis court.

While Minnesota’s football team fell to the Wildcats on Saturday, eight hours south of the Twin Cities, the women’s tennis team struggled to find a rhythm at the Wildcat Invitational in Evanston, Ill.

The Gophers brought eight members of the team to compete in the weekend tournament, and every athlete lost her first-round match except freshman Jessika Mozia.

She was the lone bright spot for the Gophers in a tournament littered with early losses.

“She’s stepped up and kind of used her strength to play at the level we want her to play at,” head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “She’s not afraid to step in and be aggressive, even if that means missing some shots.”

She didn’t miss much early in the weekend.

Mozia rolled over Krissy Lankelma from Northern Iowa and Nini Sujashvili from Western Michigan in the first two rounds to advance to the championship match. She faced Jarret Fisher of DePaul on Sunday and lost 6-2, 6-2 in the title match.

“I think staying mentally tough was a big thing for me,” Mozia said. “I just had the drive to keep going even when I was tired.”

Mozia said she thought she played well overall, but she said she started to wear down by the end of the weekend.

Paula Rincon Otero and Julia Courter competed in a separate division from Mozia and lost their first-round matches.

Both players rebounded and advanced to play each other in the consolation championship Sunday. But they didn’t play that match and instead used it as an opportunity to hone their skills against different competition.

“If we get in those situations, instead of coming all that way to play each other, we’ll find teams that are also playing each other and play them,” Merzbacher said.

Yuliana Umanets also came back from an early loss to secure her spot in the consolation finals of her respective division, but she lost 6-3, 6-3.

Mozia also teamed up with Aria Lambert to win their doubles division on the weekend.

Merzbacher said that the play of his doubles squads impressed him the most amid the struggles on the singles side.

“We had some improvement in our play that didn’t necessarily translate to wins, but as long as we’re playing the right way, I know we’re going to get some good results,” Merzbacher said. “That’s what the fall is for — just to get matches.”