Cyclones prepare for first test at Gopher Invitational


ISU tennis coach Armando Espinosa speaks to ISU tennis players after a set during their match against Texas on March 27, which ended in a 4-2 loss to Iowa State. 

Ryan Leon

In a culture of constant comparison and competition, the ISU women’s tennis team will finally get a chance to see how it fares against live opponents.

The Cyclones will open their season at the Gopher Invitational on Friday. The three-day tournament spans an entire weekend with a total of 12 teams competing in both singles and doubles play.

The tournament operates in a draw format, so it won’t behave like a typical match. Two 32-player singles tournaments and one 16-player singles tournament will be played — each with two rounds Friday and Saturday, and one round Sunday. The three days will feature 12 four-team doubles tournaments.

“I want to go up with our most experienced players and try to put them at the top, but since it isn’t a team event, we won’t go in with a set lineup,” said ISU coach Armando Espinosa.

Using this unique tournament format, the Cyclones will receive a chance to take inventory of their talents. Players will compete in at least four matches per day, which could be used to accelerate their experiences with live opponents.

These rapid fire games will be beneficial to the doubles teams, which didn’t return a complete team from 2014-15. Iowa State will have a chance to try some new combinations and see who can step up and earn a spot.

“I think it’s going to be very important for our teams,” said Samantha Budai, one of the few returning doubles players. “Since it’s a draw, we can switch partners every day, so that should give us a chance to build some chemistry and start to mesh with each other.”

The ability to make teams on the fly will also have a significant impact on the younger players on the squad. All four of the Cyclones’ freshmen will play in singles and doubles matches, giving them much-needed experience.

One issue some teams face early in the year is getting used to the conditioning of major match play. The Cyclones think they have put in the work early to overcome this issue, since they have been working on conditioning since the beginning of September.

“I think we are totally ready,” said freshman Annabella Bonadonna. “Physically, mentally, we’re just ready to go out and play.”

The Cyclones seem poised and ready for the competition, but they know to temper their expectations at such an early stage of the season. At this point, it really isn’t about wins and losses, but they have put a much larger focus on getting fundamentally better and building team chemistry.

“We just want them to go out there and fight,” Espinosa said. “We want them to stay on the court and find ways to try and win wherever they’re playing.”

The tournament opens Friday at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center and will continue through Sunday.