The fall season opens with the annual Gopher Invitational for the Minnesota women's tennis team this weekend at the Baseline Tennis Center.
The Gophers are among seven schools in the meet, which consists of three singles flights and three doubles flights. Play begins at 9 a.m. each day. Matches will be played both indoors and outdoors, depending on the weather. Admission is free for all matches.
Six of the seven schools participated in last year's tournament with Buffalo the only newcomer to the event. Minnesota's Big Ten rival, Iowa, is among the competitors along with Nebraska and Iowa State from the Big 12. Northern Iowa and Eastern Michigan round out the field.
Friday's action begins with two rounds of doubles play at 9 a.m. and the opening round of singles at approximately 1 p.m. Saturday's play will consist of two rounds of singles competition starting at 9 a.m. The doubles finals will be played Sunday at 9 a.m. and singles finals will begin Sunday at about 10:30 a.m.
Minnesota's Tijana Koprivica, Alessandra Ferrazzi and Magdalena Wiecha will compete in the Vikings singles flight, which is the main draw. Iowa sophomore Sonja Molnar, the returning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is the top seed and the only ranked player in the field. Molnar is ranked 72nd nationally and could face Koprivica in the second round if both players win their opening matches. Ferrazzi placed third in the main draw of last year's Gopher Invite.
Peta Forsyth, Alexa Palen and Jackie Sperling will all compete for the Gophers in the Twins singles flight. Palen, the two-time defending Minnesota Class A state champion from Rochester Lourdes High School, will make her collegiate debut this weekend. Her sister, Alyssa, competes for Iowa State, but will play in the Wild singles flight.
Ferrazzi and Koprivica placed third in last year's Gopher Invitational and are paired again this year in the Timberwolves flight, which is the main doubles draw. Wiecha and Forsyth are also in the eight-team main draw on the opposite side of the bracket. Sperling and Palen will play together in the Swarm doubles flight. The only returning champion in singles or doubles is the Iowa State doubles team of Liza Wischer and Reka Kelemen, who will also compete in the Swarm flight.
Minnesota is coming off a 12-12 season in 2008-09. Koprivica, a senior from Belgrade, Serbia, led the team in victories last season for the third straight year with a 22-14 overall record.