Freshman Wilkins goes 4-1 at ITA

As the fall season came to a close for the womenâÄôs tennis team, one player had the opportunity to debut her skills for the very first time. Freshman Niltooli Wilkins competed hard in her first ever collegiate tournament at the ITA Midwest Regional last weekend. She posted a 4-1 singles record, winning three straight matches on her way to the main draw, losing her first main draw match, and then coming back to defeat Anna Redesci of DePaul in the consolation match. Wilkins solidified her status as a top rated freshman after play concluded for Minnesota. After surpassing expectations of reaching the main draw, âÄúTooli,âÄù as her teammates and coaches call her, was feeling pretty good. âÄúComing out of it I was really proud of myself actually because it was my first college tournament. I was a little nervous going into it, but I played much better than I thought I would, and competed well,âÄù Wilkins said. âÄúI think it was important for her to get a taste for college tennis and especially against some of the better players in the region. She now has an idea of what she has to do and the level of play she has to reach in order to be among the best,âÄù Coach Tyler Thomson said. Although Wilkins was satisfied with her winning record and overall ITA experience, she isnâÄôt accustomed to any form of losing in the past. Wilkins posted a 92-0 Lake Conference record in five years while playing for nearby Burnsville High School. Her senior year, she won the state singles championship in a three-set tiebreaker. Choosing the University of Minnesota was a no-brainer for Wilkins. One of her brothers, who graduated last year, played for the Gophers, and her father teaches at the University. Choosing the University means sheâÄôs just going to have to compete with the top competition now. ItâÄôs a new start, and sheâÄôs going to have to prove to everyone she can compete with other collegiate players. âÄúIn order for me to be at their level, itâÄôs all about believing in myself,âÄù she said. âÄúSo I just [have to] know that if I play 100 percent the whole time, then IâÄôm as good as any girl across the net for me.âÄù âÄúWhat separates Tooli from a lot of collegiate players and what can separate her in her career is her ability to finish points at the net. She has a very well-rounded game, she is very proficient from the baseline, but there arenâÄôt too many college freshmen who have the ability to finish points at the net like she can,âÄù Thomson said. Wilkins also has an aggressive style of play from the baseline, which will allow her to finish even more points at the net, he said. Nevertheless, Wilkins has areas Thomson would like to see some improvement including an Inconsistent serve and lack of confidence on the court. âÄúShe just essentially doesnâÄôt toss the ball high enough and doesnâÄôt extend enough for the ball,âÄù Thomson said. Coaches, though, are confident that these things will develop with time. âÄúThe more that she explores how far she can push herself both physically and emotionally, I think, the more itâÄôs going to pay dividends for the future,âÄù Thomson said.