Cyclones hope to continue strong play at Gopher Invitational


Photo: Suhaib Tawil/Iowa State Daily

Ksenia Pronina zeros in on the ball during Iowa State’s loss against Oklahoma 4-3 on Friday, April 5, 2013, at Forker Courts.

Chris Wolff

After beginning the fall season at the Drake Fall Invitational last weekend, the ISU women’s tennis team will compete in the Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis this weekend.

At Drake, the team saw two players reach the finals in singles competition, with junior Ksenia Pronina bringing home the top flight championship and sophomore Ana Gasparovic finishing as runner-up in the Flight “B” singles competition.

“I was pretty happy with the way I played,” said Pronina, who noted an improvement in her serving percentage. “I practiced a lot and it showed me that all the work I had put in had paid off.”

After struggling with her serving in previous years, she hopes to continue her serving success throughout the fall and into the spring season.

All eight team members will compete in the Gopher Invitational, which will allow the team to try out some new doubles combinations. Doubles play was a point of emphasis for ISU coach Armando Espinosa.

“We certainly need to improve our doubles,” Espinosa said. “That’s why we’re spending a lot of time at practice on it going into Minnesota.”

The added players will allow Espinosa to see everyone in action for the first time, and he can begin tweaking the doubles teams to best match the players’ strengths.

Finding solid doubles combinations will be crucial for the Cyclones when the spring season rolls around.

The coach is also excited to see his freshman players compete for the first time. Freshmen Samantha Budai, Lydia Green and Talisa Merchiers will all begin their collegiate careers this weekend. 

Unsure of what to expect from the younger players, he just hopes to see them gain some experience at the colligate level and “get their feet wet.”

“I am really excited,” Budai said of her first collegiate action. “It’s going to be a great experience. It’s a completely different level of tennis.”

The fall season is the best time for freshmen and other inexperienced players to get plenty of matches and some experience under their belts.

After the freshmen have competed in a few matches, the players and the coaching staff will have a better idea of what they need to work on and specific areas each player can improve in.

The Cyclones will get a chance to play some tougher competition this weekend, as Big Ten schools Minnesota and Wisconsin will be in attendance, along with South Dakota, Northern Iowa, Drake, Eastern Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota State, and Gonzaga.

The team will see some familiar faces as Iowa State, Drake, Northern Iowa, and North Dakota all competed at the Drake Fall Invitational last weekend.