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Published June 13, 2024

Gophers women’s tennis shaping to be silent victors in the spring

All of the team members concluded the fall season healthy and began training for the spring.
Image by Alex Karwowski
Sofia Pinto hit a ball across the court in practice Nov. 10.

The Gophers women’s tennis team concluded their fall season with all athletes healthy and will begin to shift their focus to the spring season.

The Gophers had a successful fall season both on and off the court with a team culture where athletes looked forward to coming to practice and winning, putting them in conversations with high-level talent.

Head coach for the Gophers Lois Arterberry said, for her, the fall season was mostly figuring out the identity of her team.

“Coming in as a first-time head coach here, it’s crucial that we get an understanding of our players’ abilities and understand what areas we need to work on,” Arterberry said.

The spring season involves more competing and traveling, so the team will have less time to practice, Arterberry added. The Gophers shifted their focus in practice to a more technical aspect of the game, working more on strategy and breaking down each player’s game.

With their work cut out for them and the spring season approaching, the team had its victories from the fall season to be proud of.

Emma Belloumini, a freshman on the team, went 10-0 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Region Championship (ITA) until she fell in the third set in the tournament’s third round to Indiana Spink, a senior from Arkansas.

Doubles partners Mia Liepert and Sofia Pinto competed in the quarterfinals at the 2023 ITA. The two lost to the No. 1 seed doubles team, Dana Guzman and Alina Shcherbinina of Oklahoma.

“I think the experience was really good and it gave us the feeling like we want more and do even better,” Pinto said.

Pinto also lost to the No. 1 singles seed, Anastasiya Komar of Oklahoma State, in three sets at the tournament. Despite her loss, Arterberry said she was proud of the “grit” Pinto displayed in her match.

“[Pinto’s match] was one game away from winning or taking out the number one seed who went on to be a finalist in a tournament,” Arterberry said. “That was a pretty good surprise.”

The Gophers did not qualify for any national tournaments in the fall season because of their performance last season. Despite last season’s setbacks, Arterberry said her team is “underrated” and has the potential to surprise people.

“It doesn’t matter how tough the drills are or what we’re asking them to do, they face it head on and they commit,” Arterberry said.

Liepert said the team has dinners together and dress up for Halloween. Liepert added the bond among the team allows them to have fun on the court while also maintaining a level of focus.

The Gophers were very receptive to the new coaching staff, something Arterberry expressed gratitude toward. Both Liepert and Pinto said they feel very comfortable talking with the coaching staff about any issues they have, regardless of whether or not it is tennis-related.

“We have a lot of freedom with the coaches,” Pinto said. “We can always talk to them whenever we want.”

Arterberry applauded the women on the team for being so open with the coaching staff as they work to understand each player’s game and said part of being a new coach is learning and growing with the team.

“It’s not just about them growing, but it’s about [the coaching staff] growing as well,” Arterberry said.

After the fall season came the conclusion of Liepert’s first time competing in America, something she said was very different from playing in Austria, her home country.

Liepert added playing in America allows her to condition herself, practice and study.

“In Europe, you have to decide after high school if you want to go pro or if you want to study and here it’s like combined,” Liepert said.

The blend of competitiveness, camaraderie and a healthy culture sets the stage for a dynamic and promising spring season for the Gophers.

“We want to enter the season positively and win a lot of matches and stay healthy as a team,” Liepert said.

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