TENNIS: Cyclones head north to face off against Gophers

Alyssa Palen, senior, practices at Forker on Sept. 30. Palen was recently honored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Photo: Manfred Brugger/Iowa State Daily

Manfred Brugger

Alyssa Palen, senior, practices at Forker on Sept. 30. Palen was recently honored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Photo: Manfred Brugger/Iowa State Daily

Dan Tracy

ISU tennis coach Armando Espinosa might make a stop by the offices of Paul Rhoads and Kevin Jackson before packing up to leave for Rochester, Minn., on Sunday.

Rhoads and Jackson have both notched victories over the Gophers in the past month, something Espinosa hopes to replicate when he and his squad takes on Minnesota this Sunday.

“That’s what we’re looking for, to go three and [zero] against the Gophs,” said Espinosa.

It’s been over two months since the team last played at the WMU Super Challenge but Espinosa feels confident about his team’s chances this weekend after seeing the team return to practice after the holiday break.

“They are really beginning to take ownership of the program,” Espinosa said. “The bar has been set and they are rising to the occasion.”

Three players in specific, sophomore Maria Fernanda Macedo, junior Liza Wischer and senior Alyssa Palen received recognition by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association for their performance over the Cyclones first five tournaments.

In the 2010 season’s first ITA rankings, Macedo ranked as the No. 18 singles player in the Central Region and as a doubles pair, Wischer and Palen ranked as the No. 10 doubles pair in the Central Region.

Macedo, who leads the team with a 9-2 singles record, was surprised when she read the e-mail from Espinosa about the ranking, but now she feels motivated to stay in the rankings and “win as many matches as I can.”

“I really feel inspired now,” Macedo said.

Macedo also said that she felt she was becoming a more intelligent and patient player, two traits that she will need with the stiff competition she will face on Sunday.

In singles play, Macedo will square off against either Tijana Koprivica, the No. 3 ranked player in the Central Region and No. 111 in the country, or Alessandra Ferrazzi, the No. 16 ranked player in the Central Region.

The No. 3 Doubles pair for the Cyclones, Wischer and Palen were just as surprised when they received the phone call from Espinosa about the ranking.

Posting a 5-1 record on the season, the pair has found great success after beginning to play together less than three months ago.

“We definitely want to stay [in the rankings],” said Wischer. “And make it to the top,” added Palen.

In addition to the new ranking, Palen may take on a new opponent, but a familiar face as she could potentially square off against her sister Alexa, a freshman at Minnesota, in doubles play.

As a team, Minnesota is ranked No. 69 in the nation in the the latest ITA rankings.

Minnesota is 3-0 all-time against Iowa State, having won in 2002 and in each of the past two seasons; both times by a score of 5-2.

Minnesota will be one of the three teams, along with Old Dominion (No. 52) and VCU (No. 43) that the Cyclones will face in the non-conference schedule that are ranked in the top 75 nationally.

The Cyclones are hoping that a win over the Gophers would be a huge boost not just for their own ranking, but for their visibility in the national ranks.

“We have taken a team that no one really knew about to one that people are actually starting to look at,” said junior Erin Karonis.

Espinosa also knows that a tough non-conference schedule will bode well for the team once they square off against the top programs in the Big 12 such as Baylor and Texas.

“We want to make sure we come into the Big 12 [conference schedule] as prepared as we can be,” Espinosa said.