May 6, 2012
The University of Minnesota women's tennis team held its annual banquet recently and handed out individual awards for the 2011-12 season prior to the team competing in the NCAA tournament this week. The awards were voted on by members of the team and the coaching staff.
Junior Alexa Palen received the Most Valuable Athlete award. The Rochester, Minn., native finished tied for second on the team with 18 overall wins and 14 wins in dual matches. She went 4-3 at No. 1 singles, 8-2 at No. 2 and 2-1 at No. 3. Palen played with a few different partners in doubles competition, but found the most success with Doron Muravnik as the duo went 8-4 in dual matches at the second position.
Sophomore Natallia Pintusava, who was named First Team All-Big Ten, was recognized with the Most Improved award. The Minsk, Belarus, native went 10-5 at No. 1 singles this year as she finished the spring season with a 14-8 record. Pintusava, who is 18-11 overall this season, is also 4-3 at second singles. Pintusava teams with Magdalena Wiecha to form the No. 52 ranked doubles team in the nation. The duo is 12-5 in dual matches this year and was 9-5 at the first position and 3-0 at second doubles.
Pauline Gilbert received the Most Enthusiastic award. The Most Enthusiastic award is presented to the player who exhibits extraordinary spirit, selflessness and genuine appreciation of being a Gopher.
Freshman Julia Courter won the Belmar Gunderson award, which is given out by the coaching staff and is presented to the student athlete who consistently finds a way to persevere in the midst of adverse conditions and unfavorable odds. Courter is 17-12 overall this year and 11-9 in dual matches.
The Gophers, experienced a bounce-back season this year, with a 16-8 record. This spring has marked Minnesota's highest win total since the team went 18-7 in 2003. That year was also the last time the Gophers appeared in the NCAA Tournament, losing 4-3 to Pepperdine on May 9. Minnesota, which got off to a program-best 12-1 start to the season, faces Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament this Friday in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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