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Iowa women's tennis prepares for Gopher Invitational

BY CONRAD SWANSON | SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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Today and throughout the weekend, the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis will be filled with women's tennis teams from nine different schools. The event is the Gopher Invitational tennis tournament, the first of the year for the teams.

Iowa will take part in the tournament hosted by Minnesota and will square off against competition from Bradley, Gustavus, Iowa State, LSU, Missouri, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Wisconsin.

Hawkeye head coach Katie Dougherty has a large crop of freshmen who will compete in their first college tournament. Dougherty said her main focus in her team's preparation has been doubles; she has been experimenting with different combinations of teams and emphasizing the teamwork as a whole.

Iowa assistant coach Jesse Medvene-Collins has also worked to prepare the team for the season ahead.

"We've been playing a lot of points, doubles, combos, and strategy," he said. "We're just trying to hit a lot of balls, and practice is going well so far."

Dougherty said there's only so much the Hawkeyes can get out of practicing, however.
"Competition is a whole other beast," she said.

Dougherty said she's looking forward to gauging where her team's strengths lie — and, conversely, what needs to be worked on before Iowa's next tournament, the Wildcat Invitational in Evanston, Ill.

Minnesota head coach Tyler Thompson thinks much the same way.

"I think for all coaches, it's a good opportunity to look at their team," he said.

Although he said he's looking forward to competing against teams such as Iowa, not all of his players will participate in the tournament because injuries have become a problem for the Gophers.

"About half of them will play in the tournament," Thompson said. "There are a few people with lingering injuries, and they need to take it slowly."

The coaches of both the Hawkeyes and the Gophers agreed that playing each other is a challenge, with or without injured players. Thompson expressed interest in watching Hawkeye senior Sonja Molnar play, and he said he'd also scout Iowa's newcomers in order to have some idea of what to expect in the spring.

Medvene-Collins said he's looking forward to playing teams the Hawkeyes wouldn't see outside the tournament. Playing a variety of non-Big Ten schools such as No. 68 LSU and Missouri offers the athletes more experience, he said.

"We've been beating up on each other for a few weeks," he said. "Anytime you can play anyone else is a good opportunity."

Medvene-Collins also acknowledged the significance of a freshman athlete's first tournament in college as a career milestone.

"They've all done a great job so far. They're off to a good start, and it should be a fun weekend with their first college tournament," Medvene-Collins said. "It's something they'll remember. I'm sure they're nervous, but that's a good thing."


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