Coming off one of the best turnaround seasons of any NCAA Division I women’s tennis program, the pieces are in place for the University of Minnesota to continue riding that momentum into the 2008 season.
The Gophers return seven players who saw action in dual meets last year and add a solid freshman in Alessandra Ferrazzi, who posted an 11-3 record this fall while winning the individual title at the Gopher Invitational. Ferrazzi, an Italian, is ranked 30th in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Regional rankings.
Minnesota, which is coached by seventh-year coach Tyler Thomson, finished 12-11 overall and sixth in the Big Ten with a 4-6 league mark in 2007, which was a seven-match improvement over the previous season. Minnesota opens its 2008 season on Fri., Jan. 18 when it hosts Drake at 6 p.m. The Gophers will also take on Wisconsin-Milwaukee and South Dakota State on Sun., Jan. 20 at 10 a.m.
The Gophers need to replace their No. 1 singles player from last season in Ashley Schellhas, who earned all-Big Ten accolades. Leading the returnees is sophomore Tijana Koprivica, who posted the 16th-highest win total in school history last season with a 23-13 overall record. Koprivica, from Serbia and Montenegro, went 9-5 in the fall and captured the individual title at the Northwestern Invitational. She is ranked 28th in the ITA Midwest Regional rankings.
Adding to the experienced lineup is a pair of seniors, Danielle Mousseau and Lindsay Risebrough. Mousseau, who was the ITA’s national sportsmanship award winner last season, also shined on the court with a 17-16 overall record, while Risebrough went 13-14 overall, including a 6-4 mark in Big Ten matches.
Junior Karina Chiarelli posted a 15-17 record last season. She went 9-5 this fall and teamed with Ferrazzi for an 11-3 doubles record and No. 15 regional ranking. The duo won the Gopher Invitational and advanced to the third round of the ITA regional tournament.
Along with Koprivica, six other sophomores add experienced depth to the Gophers’ lineup. Mikayla Rogers competed in seven matches at the No. 6 position last season and went 6-5 this fall, while Alex Seaton went 10-6 in singles last season. Jackie Sperling, Mariana Spilca and Liz Tusler did not compete in any spring matches, but have seen extensive competition the past two fall seasons. Jackie Claypool played only doubles last season and saw action in singles competition this fall.
Ferrazzi is joined by Peta Forsyth and Ronni Saxon as the only newcomers on this year’s squad. The Gophers are eyeing their first NCAA tournament appearance since the 2003 season.