ISU tennis sees ups, downs during fall season

Brian Mozey

The fall season for tennis has come to a close and looking back, it shows there have been many ups and downs.

The records from the past two months will help ISU head coach Armando Espinosa determine a lineup for the future. Espinosa has yet to comment on a specific lineup for the regular season and will evaluate the practice habits from each player. 

Senior Meghan Cassens leads the team in singles this fall with a 9-1 record over three competitions. Cassens went undefeated in the Gopher Invitational and Jason’s Deli Collegiate Invitational but had one loss at the ITA Regionals. Her performances this fall included wins over many competitive teams like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Minnesota and Syracuse.

“My confidence is usually diminished after the fall season, and I’m responsible for regaining it during the break,” Cassens said. “Now, I can ride this success into the regular season in January.”

Sophomore Samantha Budai continued her success on the court from last season into this fall. Her 6-4 record is second best on the team, winning two matches in each of her three invitationals. She is getting prepared to take on the number one singles spot next year after the seniors leave.

“Even if we get a top freshman recruit, that top spot will be for someone who has seen the competition,” Espinosa said.

Last year’s number one singles player came in third with this fall’s results. Senior Ksenia Pronina had a strong start at the Gopher Invitational going 3-1 but then cooled off ending the season 5-4 overall.

Senior Caroline Andersen and juniors Ana Gasparovic and Alejandra Galvis shared similar results going into the regular season to be tied in fourth place. Each of these players had tough matchups and could have easily had a few more wins to improve their records.

“I’ve been trying to incorporate what we’ve been practicing in singles and doubles throughout the fall season,” Andersen said. “I think we have improved since the Gopher Invitational.”

Gasparovic and Galvis had 3-4 records while Andersen held a 3-3 record, rounding out the top six players for singles by records for the fall season. Espinosa hasn’t made a decision on the lineup and will wait the two and a half months until the players come back from winter break.

The last two players to round out the top eight are sophomores Talisa Merchiers and Natalie Phippen. The two of them are still learning the system and the competition level while going into their second year. Merchiers had a 2-3 record while Phippen went 1-5. They also only competed in two invitationals, which is one less than most of the other players.

“My goal this fall is to prepare myself and earn a spot in singles for the regular season,” Merchiers said. “I need to practice hard and fight in every match to receive this spot.”

As for doubles, Espinosa changed the pairings many times to start the season but later found a solid pairing for each player.

The pairing with the best record this fall was Cassens and Gasparovic. They started off hot, going 6-1 in the first tournament at the Gopher Invitational. Once they reached Jason’s Deli Collegiate Invitational, the two hit a bump and went 1-2. They finished the season 8-4.

“We’ve started getting better corresponding with each other’s games because we’re familiar with our game styles and how to make each other play better,” Cassens said. 

The second best record in doubles over the fall was Galvis and Andersen, going 5-1 with Budai and Pronina following close behind at 5-2.

“We had a really good season last year,” Budai said. “I think we grew more as a pairing compared to last year, so the chemistry is strong.”

Merchiers and Phippen are the last pairing for the team with a 2-4 record. The two of them started the season 0-2 but came back to win a couple matches towards the end of the fall.

The only player that didn’t participate in any invitationals or tournaments this fall season was freshman Anna Garcia. Garcia was sidelined with a back injury at the beginning of the season and hasn’t been cleared to play any matches, which worries Espinosa and the team.

“It’s going to set her back pretty bad,” Espinosa said. “If it was a sophomore or junior that has seen the competition then I wouldn’t be so worried, but she’s a freshman and hasn’t competed with any schools in the country.”

The team will continue to practice over the next two and a half months before the regular season starts with a lightened workload and only one hour practices.

The ISU tennis team will start its spring season on Jan. 17 when they travel to Fort Myers, Florida to play at the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational. The regular season and first home match will begin on Jan. 30 against Omaha.