Keep updated with the Gopher women's tennis team during 2008-09 as the team members alternate writing blog entries about the season.
In the final installment of the season, Alessandra Ferrazzi gives a behind-the-scenes recap of the team's trip to the Big Ten tournament.
April 27 - Alessandra Ferrazzi
The Minnesota Gopher Women’s Tennis season is almost done and the team left at noon for the Big Ten matches.
We arrived in Wisconsin after about 5 hours of travelling and we had practice outside for about a couple of hours. After some drills and points, we had also some fun playing doubles. We mixed up the partners randomly with the purpose of winning as many points individually as possible. The two winners were supposed to decide single and double cheers for the matches. The coaches were playing as well, but at the end the winner were Liz and I. After practice, we went to watch and support the Minnesota Women’s Softball team that was playing against Wisconsin right behind the tennis courts. It was a great experience especially for those of us who have never seen a softball game in live. For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant close to the hotel, where we found a really singular and original waiter who knew a bit of Italian. I had a little conversation with him in Italian and I felt so relaxed and happy. The dinner was funny thanks to his Italian way to take the orders, ask questions, and serve the meals. He definitely made the dinner more enjoyable and pleasurable.
Thursday: the plan of the day was supposed to be: breakfast at 6:30 a.m at the hotel’s restaurant, warm up at 8, match at 9 against Penn State and lunch at 12:00 because we were planning to beat them, but leaving them the chance to play a bit. I am kidding obviously. Well, I do not need a lot of time to be ready in the morning differently from Tools (she loves sleeping), so I set my alarm at 6:24 leaving myself the time to put the shoes and a sweater on and then going downstairs. Tools instead set her alarm at 6:15 because she likes the idea of waking up and reset the alarm for a couple of minutes later giving her the illusion of sleeping a little more. The funny thing was that I woke up with my alarm and she was still sleeping... I laugh so much while she was rushing to be ready and going downstairs (we were the last ones to sit at the table, but I do not think Ty noticed, at least until now hihihi).
The match against Penn State started, we played inside because it was raining, we opened up with doubles n1 Chiarelli-Ferrazzi 0-4, I said KC to play hard on the lines but she never listens to me!!! Kidding, it was my fault because I was playing hard but too many mistakes, n2 Koprivica-Sperling 3-0 and Seaton-Weicha at n3 with 1-3. Pretty good start uh?!?! Well after few minutes we got back!; n1 double was 6-4 up (thanks to me obviously...kidding, finally KC listened to me to play hard on the lines) as well as n3 which closed 8-3 and n2 close 8-0 giving no chances to Penn State. Ten minutes break before singles started with KC at n1 opening 6-2, T closing strong with a double 6-1 6-1, I at n3 6-4(I was giving her a chance to play a bit). At n4 single Tools won the first set for 7-6 (9/7 at the tiebreaker), Magda closed the match really fast with a double 6-2 and Alex at n6 won 7-6 (7-4) 6-2. KC, Tools and I did not have the chance to finish our matches but at least we won. Everyone was happy and satisfied with the matches, we had a good intensity and energy on the court from the very beginning, and we stayed focus and positive until the end.
Knowing that the following day we should play Northwestern, we went to have lunch with our fans that came to cheer us up during the match, they have been really loud during the whole match and I think they deserve a big thanks from the whole team: THANK YOU for your support during the whole season!!! We hope to see you again next season obviously....hihihi.
The Big Ten banquet is supposed to be at 7p.m and we left from the hotel at 6:45. After lunch some girls went downtown and around the campus to spend some time and had some fun. KC and I stayed at the hotel studying and writing papers, while Liz took advantage of this free time to meet some old friends. As soon as we arrived at the banquet we took some pictures (thanks Dasha), every one of us looked amazing. This year we were trying to sit as close as possible to the buffet and we did but obviously, we still were the last ones to get the food. In the meantime, we looked at the video with the pictures of every team, we discussed about girly stuff like dresses, and shoes the other girls were wearing as well as guessed who was the freshman of the year (KC, me and someone else guessed it right) and the top players that were going to be rewarded. The food was amazing, and the ceremony was simple and fast which make it more pleasurable. Our team presented as seniors Alex, KC and Liz who received a wonderful red rose, even though I think Liz had appreciated more the dessert since she got two pieces of cake with the excuse that they had a different topping, sure, do you think we believe you?!?!?!
On Friday, we played Northwestern at 10 and the plan was supposed to be the same, just postponed of one hour. Tools set her alarm at 7:15 and I did at 7:24. This time she really woke up at 7:15, funny, and when we got to breakfast we even weren’t the last ones to sit, good job Tools!!! The waiter at the hotel was getting crazy. We were too many for her to manage, especially on Friday morning because Ohio State was there as well at the same time. Tools was so unlucky, on both days she was the one who got her food last and the wrong one as well!!! The waiter was trying to convince her that Tools said something different to her, that it was not the same of what she wrote down on her notebook. They discussed for like 5 minutes but at the end Tools won, she got the food, but still without peanut butter, poor Tools (good fight by the way!!!).
Against Northwestern we played outside, the weather was awesome except for the wind, but we can’t ask for too much, right?! KC and I lost the doubles after a long time. Magda and Alex lost 2-8 and T and Sperl did not have the chance to finish the match despite it was tight. KC played Mosolova, she lost 61 61, T played Rose (2-6 5-4 unfinished) and I lost 6-3 6-4 by Murray having the chance to lead or win both of the sets, Tools at n4 had the same score as T, Magda lost with a double 6-2 and Alex was down 4-6 4-5.
Despite we lost the match, we actually fought hard and were tight with our game, and there was not a big difference between the two teams this time, even less than the last time we played them. The season is done and we cannot do anything else than come back home. On the way back, while driving, Ty threw his pop out of the window with the purpose to hit Dasha’s car. I assume it did work because for a while Dasha was trying to get her revenge but Ty did not allow her to.
Being the last match of the season and the last blog, I hope you have enjoyed them (mine in particular, right?!) and I hope to see you next season to cheer us up and watching some good tennis!!
Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota Gophers - Go Gophs!!!
Get to know Golden Gopher sophomore Alessandra Ferrazzi. Watch the interview here.
Get to know Golden Gopher freshman Magdalena Wiecha. Watch the interview here.
April 20 - Magdalena Wiecha
This weekend the Minnesota Gopher Women’s Tennis Team traveled to Indiana to play on Saturday against Indiana State and the last Big Ten match against Purdue on Sunday.
We arrived in Indianapolis on Friday and had practice at the Indiana State courts. At the end of practice the coaches wanted us to figure out one thing that we would all do after winning a match. Dasha decided which one was the best. She chose the freshmen’s cheer Minne, Minne, MINNESOTA! While we screamed Minne, Minne MINESOTA we were also pumping our fists at the same time, resembling that of Nadal’s famous fist pumps. The second cheer Dasha chose was the sophomore’s cheer of game, set, match MINNESOTA! We screamed this after each singles win.
On Saturday we played against Indiana State. We won 5-2. They had a very small team, just 5 girls, one of them being injured, so at the start of the match we were already up 2-0. We had to fight to win another two points in order to win. Alex and I lost doubles, however Ale and KC won so we were up 3-0. We needed just one more singles win. And this time the freshman won the deciding points and the team was happy that we won. Tooli and I after winning our matches we did our first official Minne Minne MINNESOTA! Along with our fist pumps. KC and T lost their matches, however they fought very well like usual. After our match we got on the road to face Purdue.
On Sunday we beat Purdue 4-3. We swept them in doubles 3-0. Ale and KC are undefeated in Big Ten and won 8-4. T and Jackie were down but fought really hard and came back and won 8-5. Alex and I won 8-4 and I must say that I was impressed with Alex’s volleys. In one moment during our match I asked her, “Do you need me on the court?” because a lot of the points she finished at the net by herself. After doubles we were ready for singles. We came out on the courts full of energy and everywhere you could hear “Go Gophs!” First Jackie won her match after maybe an hour 6-1, 6-1 and we were up 2-0. T handily took down her opponent who she played against and lost to in the ITA tournament this past fall. Wanting revenge, she beat her with great poise and confidence. I won next, finishing right behind T. KC, Tooli and Ale lost however all of them had tough matches. Peta and Alex did a great job cheering for us on the sidelines. After some matches were completed Peta went on for an exhibition match and took down her opponent. That was great team effort.
These last two matches show that if we all would have been healthy and without injuries, we would have won more Big Ten matches. However this Wednesday we are leaving to compete in the Big Ten Championship Tournament and we know that we are ready to beat everyone. There is only one option when we are on the court: win. Go Gophs!
Gophersports.com sat down with sophomore Gopher tennis player Ronni Saxon to talk about her experiences at the U and an exciting summer on tap. Watch the interview here.
April 13 - Ronni Saxon
The Gopher women’s tennis team hosted its final home matches of the season this weekend, competing against Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin. While our lineup has changed in recent weeks due to various injuries, we were still able to show these teams what the Golden Gophers are made of.
Since late October of my freshmen year, I have not been able to fully participate in practice because of pain in my right shoulder. After spending almost every day since then doing rehabilitation exercises in the training room, I finally decided to look to surgery this past winter break. In short, I had a tear in my labrum, it was fixed and I am now back to my religious rehab routines this time, however, I am trying to relearn how to successfully raise my right arm above my head.
While I may be extremely limited in my on-court participation and weight-room activity, increasingly difficult lower-body lifting programs have made my legs...ripped. I guess that is what happens when you do 4-minute wall sits with 100 lbs. of plates stacked on your quivering quads.
Over the course of the year, we have been practicing various techniques and values. This weekend was a true testament to the blood, sweat and tears that we have dedicated to our sport and our team.
The tennis gods blessed us with perfect weather for playing outdoors against Northwestern on Saturday. We lost 7-0 to the top-ranked team in the nation, with a score that does not at all reflect our performance. The individual matches had unfavorable scores as well, the numbers unequal to the immense amount of focus, intensity and determination exhibited on every court.
Sunday’s match against the Badgers also ended unfavorably, the Gophers falling 5-2. After losing the doubles point, with close scores on all three courts (8-5, 8-3 and 9-7), we defaulted one of our singles matches. Beginning the singles matches with Wisconsin already two points ahead was tough, but we held our racket heads high and went forward with the Border Battle.
While it was a tough loss, there was still a celebration. In the short break between doubles and singles on Sunday, we honored this year’s seniors: Karina Chiarelli (KC), Alex Seaton (Al) and Liz Tusler. All three of these lovely ladies were presented with bouquets of roses, while Mariana Spilca (Spilcs) spoke about their various qualities that we will always remember and miss; KC: chicken alfredo and chocolate milk at every team meal; Al: her unique laugh and fierce volleys; Liz: her constant reminders, as a future audiologist, to turn down the volume in your headphones or speakers.
My view from the side of the court has provided me with a large amount of knowledge about the game, my team and myself. I cannot begin to describe how fortunate I feel as a part of this unique and talented group of young women. Every day I am inspired and empowered as a member of this team, and as a Golden Gopher.
Gophersports.com sat down with Gopher sophomore Elena Kazakova. Watch the Interview here.
April 6 - Elena Kazakova
This weekend our team had two Big Ten matches. On Friday afternoon we flew to Indianapolis and then drove to Illinois. Later in the day we had a practice outside. The weather was sunny, but very windy. Our goal was to stay focused on internal factors, rather than on the external.
That night we went out for a dinner to the pizza restaurant. While we were waiting for the food, we played our traditional team game, Jenga! This time our goal was to achieve 32 levels of the tower. Everyone was very excited and was trying really hard to achieve it. We almost failed, but our assistant coach, Dasha, saved it when she caught it with one hand. Finally, we made it!
Saturday was match day against Illinois. We knew that this was going to be a challenging match, but we were very excited to play our first outdoor Big Ten match. Our team faced many external factors. The weather was sunny and it was quite windy, but the girls did a good job on focusing on the match and not thinking these external factors. The Gophers began with doubles. We stepped on the court with confidence and positive energy. Our victory in doubles came from #1 doubles Karina Chiarelli and Alex Seaton 8-3. However, Illinois won other two matches 8-6 at #2 and 8-5 at #3. The singles matches exhibited plenty of fight, and we had some really close matches that could have gone either way. Our particularly close matches were Jackie Sperling who lost her match 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, and Karina Chiarelli and Niltooli Wilkins who lost in third-set super-tiebreakers. Unfortunately we did not do as we all hoped we would do and lost 7-0, but there are many things to be learned from this match. I am sure that we will take what we learned and use it to make us tougher and stronger.
The Gophers’ next match was on Sunday against Indiana. It was another tough match, and the weather was fairly nice and warm. We started the match with 1-0 lead in doubles. Tijana Koprivica and Jackie Sperling won 8-5 at # 2 and Magdalena Wiecha and Niltooli Wilkins won 8-6 at #3. In this match our fight was clearly shown and I was very proud for each of the girls. Later in the singles, Tijana put the Gophers ahead with a dominant 6-0 6-1 win at #2, but Indiana came back to win with a total of 4 of the 6 singles victories. Our number 3 player Nitooli Wilkins brought a third point to Minnesota beating her opponent 6-2, 1-6, 6-2. Due to rain, Wilkins’ match was moved inside when she was up 5-2 in the third set, and she did a really good job of remaining focused on internal factors and won the final game to close out her match.
We have learned a lot of things from this weekend and it will definitely help us to improve and be better for next time. Also, we are ready to get back on the courts this week for practice and continue to work on our goals. We are very excited and looking forward to the coming weekend where we will be taking on the number 1 team in the nation, Northwestern, and rival university, Wisconsin. We will be aiming to go into the weekend being as prepared as possible for these two important matches. Go Gophers!
Gophersports.com sat down with Jackie Claypool. Watch the interview here.
March 30 - Jackie Claypool
Finally, after many weekends of away matches, the Gophers were back on their own maroon and gold courts. Our opponents for the weekend were Penn State and Ohio State. Throughout the week prior to the matches, we knew that this weekend was going to be a very good opportunity for us to show how good of a team we really are. Even though it may not have ended the way that we had hoped, we definitely got our point across.
Our weekend began Friday with our match against Penn State. Earlier in the week, we already knew that we would be faced with challenges since our normal #2 player Alessandra Ferrazzi was out with an injured ankle, but this wasn’t going to faze us. Alex Seaton who just got over an injury was ready to play and help fill in Alessandra’s spot at #1 doubles and also participate in the singles line up.
The doubles matches started, and right from the beginning the Gophers were in control. Penn’s State lack of intensity on the court was a challenge for some of the Gophers to deal with, but in the end we found a way to get past it and win. The Gophers would win all of the doubles and begin the singles with a 1-0 lead.
After doubles we were again told some bad news that Nitooli Wilkins would not be participating in the singles lineup as a result of a shoulder injury. This moved everyone up one spot and put sophomore Peta Forsyth in the #6 singles position. The singles matches began with the Gophers in the lead. Again, people found themselves at moments struggling with the lack of intensity of the other team, but as we had been working on all week in practice, we forgot about the external and focused in on the internal and brought a 5-2 win against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Our next match was on Sunday against Ohio State. We knew that this was going to be a challenging match for us, but certainly not something that we couldn’t achieve. We began the match with doubles. Again we stepped on the court, just the way we always do, with confidence and the will to fight. The intensity and tone during this match was a lot different than it was against Penn State. Whether you were a player on the court or off the court, or even a fan, everyone contributed to this great atmosphere that radiated throughout the whole building.
The Gophers again came out and dominated in doubles, and left the Buckeyes feeling helpless and wondering how they were going to beat us. We began singles with a 1-0 lead. We stepped on the court ready to do whatever it took to win, even though we were faced with the challenge of not only having two of our starters on the sidelines but also having people that usually don’t play step up.
The Gophers fought to the very end, but unfortunately lost 5-2 to the Buckeyes. To anyone that was at the match, they know that this score does not reflect how close it actually was.
Even though the weekend didn’t end the way that we had planned, we leave it satisfied. We showed ourselves that we can compete equally with a very good team even though we don’t have our full line-up out on the court. This can only help lead us to bigger and better things in the future. Go Gophs!
Gophersports.com sat down with Gopher tennis player Jackie Sperling. Watch the interview here.
March 24 - Alex Seaton
Spring break has finally arrived! The anticipation of warm weather, spending time with best friends, good competition, and delicious food could hardly be contained as we landed in South Carolina. Despite the 55 degree weather when we arrived, it still felt like paradise, and most of us stripped down to shorts and tanks (while native Carolinians looked on in horror)! They might have understood our enthusiasm for the “warm” weather, had they known how we spent the last 3 months!
After our first outdoor practice since October, the coaches unveiled our home for the remainder of the trip. Much like Real World contestants when they open the door to their new mansion, all of the girls ran screaming through the house in and out of different rooms in disbelief. The house was maybe 100 feet away from the ocean and every inch of it was breathtaking thank you coaches!
The first night, we went out to dinner at Hyman’s Seafood Restaurant, which is one of the most famous and historic restaurants in Charleston. All of the tables have small brass plaques that show the names of celebrities that have eaten there in the past. Sandra Bullock, Jimmy Buffett, The Beach Boys, and Oprah Winfrey were some of the names we found on our table! The restaurant was a lot of fun and the seafood was delicious I love seafood so I forced some of the girls to order things that they wouldn’t normally, and they loved it (thank goodness)!
During spring break, our team has a tradition for dinner. Each night, one class prepares a meal of their choice for the entire team. It gives us the opportunity to show our teammates our cooking skills (we’re all Top Chef Material), and a little insight into our culture or background. For instance, Magda made a traditional pork cutlet dish that her family makes in Poland, and it was amazing! Karina and I made kebabs of beef, chicken, and tofu (for the vegetarians of course) with onions, peppers, and zucchini. For dessert, sundaes!
Over the next few days, we had some time to spend at the ocean, which was FREEZING! But some of us braved it and went in! It was so nice to be near an ocean, and we all walked along the beach whenever we could. One of our team’s alumni, Mikayla Rogers, stopped by to visit us on Sunday and Monday, because she was training in the area. It was so good to see her, and it felt like she had never left!
Our match on Monday against Coastal Carolina was cancelled because of the weather, so we ended up spending the day as tourists in the city of Charleston. It was great to be able to see Charleston’s southern charm and we all were able to do some shopping as well! On Tuesday, we were able to add a match against Rutger’s University, because their match had been cancelled on Monday as well.
We were really excited to play our first outdoor match and we definitely came out with a bang and won 7-0! On Wednesday, we were hoping to bring that momentum into our match against the College of Charleston. We came out swinging in doubles, winning all three matches, but the momentum slowed as we moved to singles play. We had some really close matches that could have gone either way but unfortunately, Charleston won 4-3. We underestimated our opponents and we let up our intensity after winning the doubles point, which will never happen again! Although the match was extremely disappointing, we left the College of Charleston feeling wiser and even more motivated to show our talent and tenacity in our own conference!
On Thursday, our last day in paradise, the coaches had a surprise for us in the morning. We packed everything up, said our goodbyes to our beautiful house, and set off for our mysterious adventure. As we neared our destination, we began to figure out what it was that we were about to do: horseback riding! It was hilarious to see everyone on the horses, especially Dasha, who was lopsided on her saddle the entire ride! My horse, Fred, was extremely stubborn and loved provoking the other horses by biting their backsides I will stand by Fred however, and say that his biting was in retaliation to the “passing of gas” by the horses in front of him!
In the afternoon, we visited the College of Charleston campus, which was right in the heart of the city of Charleston. We were able to explore the city a little more, and a couple of us found a really cute coffee shop hidden in the backstreets. It was a beautiful day, so we were able to sit outside at the caf tables next to a beautiful garden and fountain so relaxing. We tried to walk around the city some more, but our legs were so tired from training and competition, that we ended up taking a nap on the quad grounds of the College of Charleston!
That night we said goodbye to Charleston, but we will never forget the amazing memories we had in that great town!
March 24 - Jackie Sperling
On Thursday the maroon and gold transitioned from Part 1 of our 8 day spring break trip to Part 2: Big 10 matches in Michigan. We arrived in Detroit Thursday night, enjoyed and joked about the musical talents of the Baggage Claim Guitar Player, and then headed to Ann Arbor to get some sleep.
Friday at practice we focused on the mindset of coming out the following day playing to win, instead of waiting for things to happen. That night the team headed over to my grandparents house for dinner. Not only did the team eat there, my aunt, uncle and cousin came from Detroit to meet the team and have dinner, and my sister and dad drove in from Milwaukee to support the Gophers. My grandparents provided Olive Garden lasagna, salad and bread sticks, as well as fruit salad, ice cream and brownies for dessert. We took care of business and stuffed our faces first (in silence) and then socialized later. It was really fun for me to have my team and family over at my grandparent’s house for dinner and I’m lucky to have grandparents that are so generous and supportive.
Saturday was match day. We got our energy pumping in the locker room beforehand with the whole team banging on the lockers and screaming. We made our presence clear before the match even started. In doubles we showed the Wolverines what Gopher Women’s Tennis is all about. We played with amazing energy, aggressiveness, intelligence, and poise. Ale and KC took it to the 31st ranked doubles team with KC’s solid baseline plays, and the “Italian Stallion” busting her butt around the court digging balls out and flying all over the net. Magda and Alex played their first doubles match together at #3 and lost in a close one. T and Tooli played some great doubles at #2 to win the point for the Gophers. They came out going straight for the win and got a solid lead of 7-3 before finishing off the Wolverines’ #2 team 8-5. We started singles matches with a 1-0 lead but unfortunately Michigan won the first three matches to make the score 1-3 before T pulled out a solid 4-and-1 win, closing the gap to 2-3. Ale and myself were still battling (on courts right next to each other), but I lost in a second set tiebreaker before Ale lost in a close third set. Overall we were really happy with how we competed in that match and were ready to learn from our loss and look forward to our next match at Michigan State.
After the match we drove to East Lansing and ate at BD’s Mongolian Barbeque (which is becoming a tradition when we play at Michigan State). That night we rested at the hotel, Magda pushed Dasha and Peta through their workouts, and some relaxed in the hot tub.
Sunday was the last day of our spring break trip and we were ready to go home with a bang. Once again we banged on the lockers and screamed before the match to get some energy flowing and make our presence known. Ale and KC played solid doubles at #1 only allowing the Spartans to win one game. Number two doubles had a rougher day with an 8-3 loss. So the doubles point came down to Alex and Magda, who were playing their second match together of the season. They refused to lose and came away with a 9-7 win to award the Gophers with the point. In singles, we competed hard on every court and came away with 5 wins. I was the sole loser in another marathon match that ended when I lost by two points in a super tiebreaker in the 3rd set.
Beating Michigan State 6-1 was a great victory and will absolutely give us confidence for our upcoming matches. We will not walk away satisfied (as coach says), however, because we know there is always room for improvement.
Improving is what we plan to do as we get back on the court this week for practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, in preparation to take on Penn State at home Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Ohio State on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Go Gophers!
Gophersports.com sat down with Alex Seaton to talk about her career and her future. Watch the interview here.
Gophersports.com sat down with Tijana Koprivica to talk about the Golden Gophers and her strong start to her spring season. Watch the interview here.
March 2 - Tijana Koprivica
This was our first Big Ten weekend, playing against Iowa, and we did not do as good as we all hoped we would do. We had great doubles matches and won the doubles point, but we fell short in our singles matches and lost 4-3. There are many things to be learned but not too much to be said about this weekend, except that all of us were very disappointed after this loss.
However, the good thing, as our coach Tyler Thomson said, is that we have nine Big Ten matches left and thus many opportunities to make up for this weekend and play great tennis, which our team is capable of. We just need to stay positive, learn as much as possible from this weekend and keep practicing in a way that will make us tougher and more prepared for the coming matches.
Ty also added that every great team has something that other teams don’t, which makes them the best. This made me feel better because our team has many things that other teams do not, including great friendship, respect, appreciation, and a wonderful sense of unity. I am not saying that this is enough to make us the best, but it is certainly a place to start and something that can help us in our quest of becoming the best team we can be. We all know that there will be many situations in which the last match on the court will be deciding who is going to win, and this will be situation when our unity and team spirit will help us win. Hopefully, we can put this match behind us, learn from it, and take on whatever obstacles come our way next!
I will also like to take advantage of this opportunity and thank all the girls for the great time on Friday, Feb 27th. For the people who don’t know, it was my 22nd birthday (still cannot believe it was 22nd already) and we decided to make a team dinner and celebrate. KC made delicious potatoes filled in with all kinds of things and Liz made great fruit punch that was gone in a second. Since in the previous blog KC wrote about certain things that are so typical for some of us, I have to add that KC can not live without chocolate milk, which she had this night too! Shocker! I am not going to say how many cups of chocolate milk she had because it is not nice to count, right? At the end, after all of us got so full that we could not eat more, Alex and Clay surprised me with the best cake I had in my life. The cake had the funniest picture of me on the top, the kind of picture I would not show to anybody. I actually wasn’t surprised at all that that was the picture Alex and Clay had chosen to put on the cake. Again, so typical of them! The cake was still, even with crazy picture of me on the top, looking so good that I did not want to let them eat it; I just wanted to look at it. However, everybody wanted a piece so I guess I really did not have a choice but to let it out of my hands.
At the end, I had the best time ever and I was so happy to be part of this AMAZING team. So, I wanted to let all of you know one more time how much all of you mean to me and how much I appreciate your support and friendship. YOU ARE THE BEST!
Gophersports.com caught up with senior Karina Chiarelli. Watch the interview here.
February 23 - Karina Chiarelli
Woo Woo ... Finally, I have my chance to write in the Gopher blog. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to share what happens inside the women’s tennis team that I was almost a little scared that nothing exciting would happen on the trip. Silly me!! It is almost impossible that there isn’t anything exciting or funny on our trips. Some of the things that always happens on the team trips are; Ale and her book (does not matter what time of the day is, she is always with a book in her hands, even when she is taking a nap, she has a book in her hands...unbelievable), T and her iPod (her iPod is like her oxygen), Tooli and her sleep marathon over the duration of the flight (even before the airplane has taken off, she is already sleeping, and if there was not a teammate there to wake her up once we land, she would probably be left behind, sleeping), Peta and her snacks (she is always eating something...and if she is not eating, she is thinking about what she would be eating!). Besides the normal things that happen (and some of these happen every single day at home), there was also some other memorable things from the trip to Columbia!
The journey started pretty early, more precisely, at 4.45am out the front of Bierman Athletic Building where we caught cabs to go to the airport. For the first time on a flight, I noticed that it was not only Tooli that had fallen asleep before take off, but the entire team! It seems that the freshy is encouraging some changes in the team!! We had a brief stop in Memphis to catch another plane to Columbia where our assistant coach, Dasha, wished we could drive, or even walk to Columbia, rather than getting in the tiny plane we were about to board. After 1hour of some shaky moments on the plane, we finally arrived in Columbia. As we waited for our rental car for over 30 minutes, a discussion started between Peta and I, where we compared the Regional Columbia Airport with our home airports Uberaba and Wagga Wagga. We came to the conclusion that both airports were bigger than Columbia’s airport. Columbia Airport boasted a variety of destinations (Memphis 3 times a day.. that’s all). However it did have free wireless and a security check in, which we were fairly impressed with.
Before I tell you of our amazing victory over the Missouri Tigers and everything that happened in the match, I can’t forget to mention the “traditional” Jenga game that we always have when we eat at a restaurant. This time, I had such great idea for what the person who knocked it over should do sing the Minnesota rouser in front of the mass of customers eating at Bob Evans. However, much to my disappointment, no one had lost by the time we had to go!
Let’s go back to the “the Gophers killing the Tigers”!! The match was amazing. The Gophers showed all signs of being more than ready for the upcoming Big Ten Conference matches (which will start next week, against Iowa). Playing in a facility with just 4 courts, an extremely loud crowd and a very slippery court surface, the Gophers once again, put into practice the golden doubles rules to knock over the Tigers. The Tigers got the first victory as the number 2 doubles, but we came back to win the number 1 and 3 doubles. Sperling and Magda, after being down 7/4, made an extraordinary come back, and handed the doubles point to the Gophers. After a 10 minute break, the Minnesota rouser was sung by our team, and the Tigers crowd got a little quieter. Our victory was lead by Ale, who sent her opponent (also from her homeland) all the way back to Italy with no chances at all (6/1 6/2). T, after being down 5/2 in the first set, didn’t give any more chances to her opponent and won 11 straight games to finish her match. Meanwhile, after a night with fever and coughing, I got lots of energy from my BFF (Best Facebook Friend ) Peta and the little (but loud!) Liz, to close out my match in a second set tiebreak. Tooli, who loves tennis so much she wanted to take 8 match points to finish her match, came through with a 6/3 6/4 win over her opponent. Sperling and Magda continued with their incredible fight they brought to doubles, but unfortunately they couldn’t get victories, but I’m confident that next week will be a different story.
Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to write some senior thoughts to sum up this successful weekend. After this trip, I have no doubt that I made a good choice when I decided to stay here at Minnesota, after not being able to play my freshman year due to some NCAA rules. This team of 13 girls and 2 coaches (I can’t forget to talk about the coaches), is unlike any other tennis team I have seen in past 3 years, but is more like a family where we support each other and share the same goals to get better every day. This team is a family where there is always reason to celebrate and have a big party, even if it is just a senior finally becoming a member of the Facebook world!
Gophersports.com sat down today with sophomore Peta Forsyth. Watch the interview here.
February 16 - Peta Forsyth
Once again, it was a home weekend for the Gopher Women’s Tennis team, and another opportunity to demonstrate what our team is all about. Our opponents for the weekend were Marshall and Washington, ranked 44 and 36 respectively. There was no doubt in our minds that this weekend’s matches were going to be quite a test for us, but certainly ones that provoked great excitement and anticipation. I couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of belief in our team’s ability to generate great things this weekend, and I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one. As I reflect on the outcomes of the weekend, I realize we certainly didn’t disappoint!
On Friday evening we took on Marshall, an encounter that lived up to everything we expected; a lengthy and intense battle from start to finish. Despite our great effort, Marshall took an early lead by gaining the doubles point. However, this definitely didn’t shake our belief and we came out firing in singles to eventually take the match 4-3. Ale Ferrazzi and T Koprivica lead the Gophers with decisive wins are number 2 and 4. Magda Wiecha also had a great win at number 5, while Karina Chiarelli and Jackie Sperling went down in extremely well fought out matches at number 1 and 6. And how could I forget Tooli Wilkins, whose win secured victory for us. Her composure in the face of a particularly high pressure situation was admirable. It was a great team effort from everyone, where we were playing, cheering or coaching. In fact, Friday night was one of those occasions where I thought to myself how proud I was to be a part of such a determined and unified team.
Sunday morning’s meet against Washington was yet another tough match, and one that provoked a strikingly similar intensity, passion and fight in our team which I had witnessed less than 48 hours earlier during the match against Marshall. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get us over the line. Washington was victorious by 5 games to 2, however the constant energy and focus from everyone on the team meant they really had to work for the win. The result of the match hung in the balance right down to the last matches where Karina and Ale both went down 6/4 in the third set. In other singles matches, victory came at number 3 and 4 from Tooli and T, while Jackie and Alex were defeated at number 5 and 6. The doubles point was also a closely fought our contest where we were narrowly edged out by 2 wins to 1.
After a weekend of match play against two highly competitive opponents, I think we can come away from it being really optimistic and confident for our future matches. I’m convinced we will only continue to solidify and improve on the things that are already making us such a tough team. May T’s spirit and dynamism continue to be felt and echoed throughout the whole tennis centre, may Dasha continue to entertain me with her animated reactions during our matches, and may our team continue to “make move” (wise words from Magda) as we progress through our season.
Gophersports.com sat down with junior Mariana Spilca to talk about her career, her path to Minnesota and her future. Watch in the interview here.
February 9 - Mariana Spilca
There are many things one could possibly say about a weekend full of events for the women’s tennis team at the Baseline Tennis Center. I choose to light-heartedly inspire all of you with a simple description of what happened to our team before we whooped our competition, both Friday and Sunday.
Firstly, I will let each reader know a little bit of a secret about this past weekend. The truth must come out, so here it is. Before I let loose on what it is that I must confess, I must apologize to each team member for the very impersonal manner in which I release this information. Also, this may be some sort of NCAA violation, so if the readers of this blog could possibly withhold from disclosing the information that I am about to share with you, it would really keep us out of a lot of trouble. Your thoughtfulness is kindly appreciated.
So here it goes. I sort of paid this fairy to magically dust some winning powder on each player as they quietly slept the night before. I knew that she was a fairy I could trust because she rocked a perfectly spiked maroon and gold mohawk as her hairstyle of choice. I also checked out her facebook profile before we met and I noticed that Goldy was first on her list of top friends. Boy, am I glad I did some research before I followed through on this deal, because not only did my team win all three matches, but there was something else that I noticed about this weekend as well.
Although the fee I paid only covered home wins over Iowa State, Miami-Ohio and Carleton College, there was one added ingredient that this fairy delightfully sprinkled without me knowing. I became aware of this through the behavior of each individual teammate. I had never before witnessed so much energy from each one of us as a whole. Not only was I the one who was astounded by the passion each Gopher projected, but also there were numerous occasions in which fans commented on this very thing. There was a phrase in particular from a fan that really made me realize that the fairy must have given me a little bit more than what I invested my money in. There was a gentleman in the bleachers that exclaimed, “Wow, the energy that these ladies have is quite shocking!” After agreeing with the man, I told myself that I would remember to specially thank the fairy for adding the ENERGY ingredient for free.
Shortly after I responded to the man’s comment, I realized that the energy a team shows is more important than a win. I mean, let’s be honest, if a victory comes along with an energetic atmosphere, it’s the best feeling in the world, but most certainly not the most important. After realizing this, I was interested in making some sort of deal with the fairy again. I spoke with her shortly after and asked if this was something that could be sprinkled on each teammate the night before every home match. I told her that the energy she mixed in would be something that people would love to come to experience. I also added that if this were something that could be made possible, more fans would come to watch. She responded by saying, “I can only dust each team once and there was no extra ingredient that I added. Customers only get what they pay for. This was something that came from within each and every one of you.”
Gophersports.com sat down with Gopher freshman Niltooli Wilkins to talk about her first year in Gold Country. Watch it here.
February 3 - Niltooli Wilkins
How does it feel to go from frigid and mind numbing four-below weather to sunny and tepid weather to the tune of 80 degrees? It’s euphorically energizing- enough to make this writer do cartwheels in the sun. This journey into the land of movie stars, recent wildfires, year round outdoor tennis, and great ocean views proved to be a very valuable venture on several counts.
First and foremost, of course, is seeing the flip side of mother nature’s wonder that enabled us to shed our Australian made Uggs only for a moment as our happy feet in slippers were able to soak in the warmth of the sun. Being able to shed four layers of clothing can be freeing in so many ways. Much lighter and freer, we were ready for the difficult task ahead, a dual with the 2008 NCAA Women’s National Champions set for Saturday, the last day of January, in the first round of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoors. How often does one get to face a team with that high a level of talent? We knew that it was a rare opportunity and we wanted to make the most of it.
The third-ranked Bruins quite handedly demonstrated why they are national champions! They decisively took the doubles point at #1 and #3 where the Gophers were only able to secure three games. The #2 doubles was able to get 4 games when the match was concluded once the Bruins had secured the doubles point. The Bruins’ caliber of play was no different in singles as their top ranked singles players put forth amazing effort that reflected their status as a top team. Gophers’ Chiarelli fell 6-0, 6-1 at # 1 singles. I lost the first set 1 6, and was down 1-5 in the second set when my match at #2 was suspended. At three singles Ale Ferrazzi fell 1-6, 1-6, while Magdalena Wiecha lost 6-0, 6-1 at #4 singles. Tijana Koprivica had a better run at number five singles with a score of 4-6, and was leading 3-1 in the second set when the match was canceled. At six singles was Jackie Sperling who was leading in her match 2-1 in the second set, although she had dropped the first set.
I think our senior captain, Alex Seaton, summed it up best when she said, “The UCLA team was exactly what I expected of defending national champions. They didn’t make any mistakes and they took advantage of the mistakes that we made.” Although our results were not what we would have liked them to be, we walked away with valuable positive experiences that will propel us to work harder to be where we want to be.
After a restful night, we faced DePaul at 10:00am the next day. We started off strong with our doubles and it really could have gone either way. Our first doubles’ match got suspended. Ale and I at #2 lost a tough one 6-8. The three doubles of Sperling and Koprivica fell in a close match 7-9. In singles, three of our singles players secured first set wins, but we fared worse in the other matches and once DePaul had earned the four match wins the other matches were suspended.. At number one singles, KC, fell 6-1, 6-3. I played two and lost 6-1 6-0.
Ale Ferrazzi led 6-3, 4-2 in her match when play was canceled. At four, Magdalena Wiecha was leading in her match 6-3 0-5 when it was canceled. At number five singles Koprivica was ahead 6-4 3-2 before it, too, was stopped. Finally, at # six Jackie Sperling lost 6-1 6-1. Overall the Demons played some great tennis that day. In the words of our feisty teammate from Serbia, T, who doesn’t pull any punches, she said, “We should have won against DePaul!” I have to agree with that. Seaton again summed up best what faces us: “We will have to work our butts off to redeem ourselves!” And there’s always the sometimes elusive doubles point. Had we won that, could we have won the match? It’s very possible.
Each player walked away with their own set of experiences and learned what they need to work on in terms of how to boost their individual tennis goals to the next level. For example, Jackie “The Wall” Sperling’s game will “benefit because she will learn how to work her points longer and will take better advantage of her offensive opportunities.” T was proud of her performances and gained much confidence. What did the writer of this blog learn? Being a reserved “freshie,” it is taking me awhile to forge close relationships with each of my teammates. This weekend, however, brought my relationship with my teammates to a new level of understanding in face of losses that were deeply felt. I have learned that we have to have each others back in order to regain our balance so that we can again move forward as one cohesive team with one goal.
Last but not least, still on the topic of these relationships, we had a most pleasant surprise! A former gopher player, Mikayla Rogers, showed up at our team breakfast to come and support her former teammates and friends. It was heartwarming to see her again.
Other memorable moments worth mentioning: A lengthy conversation about what cookie we thought each of us would be! Our conclusions were as follows: Magda would be a sugar cookie. I would be a double chocolate cookie. Liz would be a macadamia nut cookie, and many more were decided. This conversation kept us occupied and kept us laughing for quite sometime.
And the last memorable moment goes to the overhead voice in the L.A airport while we were waiting for our rental car. This repetitive voice of “No parking, No waiting” tried Peta’s patience and mind. If given the opportunity, I believe she would have gladly broken that machine for good.
January 29 - Liz Tusler
Liz Tusler makes her return to Gophersports.com and she talks about the season, her career and her future. Watch the interview now.
January 26 - Liz Tusler
On January 24th, we commenced the first match of the tennis season in Rochester, Minnesota. About half way between Des Moines and Minneapolis, the Rochester Athletic Club hosted the non-conference match.
We squished cozily into the car, listening to the Current - some doing homework, and most sleeping. We had a conversation about the best concerts ever’, the best restaurants ever’ and so on. Our team has a tendency to over-dramatize events or subjects we love or hate. It is either the best ever or the worst ever. I read aloud humorous passages from the most ridiculous assigned reading (ever) and the trip went quickly.
Our first stop in Rochester was Perkins for breakfast. Our team entertained the Rochester Perkins with our traditional game of Jenga. It seemed as if the entire restaurant was watching the game. As always, there is a consequence for losing. On Saturday, the individual who knocked over the tower needed to run around the van (or Wan if you’re T) at every stop or choose to eat an entire bagel in two bites. However, if this individual was unsuccessful at completing the bagel in two bites they were required to run around the van / wan. Our volunteer assistant coach Imke happened to knock over the tower and successfully ate it in two bites to our amusement.
Ty began his recruiting of Jenga players young, with the 3 year old seated at the table beside him named Abigail. Once Imke had knocked the tower over, Abigail played with the Jenga blocks. At about the same time Alex and I came to the conclusion that chocolate chocolate chip muffins, when dipped in coffee, have optimal moisture at 2-3 secondscompared to the Oreo that deserves a 6-7 second hold in milk.
We went back to the van / wan and drove to the RAC. We sang the Minnesota Rouser and the doubles began. At number one doubles KC (Karina Chiarelli) and Alex won 8-2 against Drake’s number 1. At two doubles, Ale and Tooli won 8-4 and T (Tijana Koprivica) and Magda won at 3 by a score of 9-7. There was a sense of Minnesota pride in the RAC, an impressive crowd for an away match. Peta’s parents, Tooli’s parents and Sperl’s parents made the tripas well as a soon-to-be gopher Alexa Palen and local supports.
Following doubles, our singles performance was impressive. Even with young players, we represented experience and maturity with our shot selection and focus. On court one our native Minnesotans, Tooli Wilkins, won at number one singlesher first real match as a Gopher. Tooli won 7-5, 7-5 at #1 and was the last match on the court. KC dropped the first set 3-6, won the second 6-3, and then the tie break 11-9. Her match represented a great deal of what our team stands for. While not feeling she had her best performance, she made a commitment to staying focused and being out on the court long enough to figure out what she could do to win. She focused her energy to the shots that she was able to make and found a way to minimize the areas she didn’t feel comfortable with.
Ale won her match 6-1, 6-1 and reported, “I’ve never hit so many volleys in my entire life, all in one set”. Magda, another freshman experiencing her first in-season match as a Gopher also won in two sets 6-1, 6-3. T won at five 6-2, 6-0 and Sperl won at six 6-1, 6-4.
Next Saturday (Jan 31st), the team will travel to Los Angeles for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship and will take on the defending national champions at 11:30. The team will enjoy playing outside in approximately 77 degree weather, but will miss the coming heat wave in Minneapolis of 29 degrees.