Reacting as almost any high school sophomore would, Caitlyn Merzbacher was aghast when her father, Chuck, told her he was taking the women’s tennis head coaching job at the University of Minnesota.
Merzbacher had lived her entire life in Dublin, Ohio. Chuck had been the women’s tennis coach at Ohio State for 16 years before leaving to take the job at his alma mater.
“I was pretty upset when I first thought about moving,” said Caitlyn, who played high school tennis at Jerome High School in Dublin. “I made a deal with my dad. I said if we’re moving, I get to play one more year of high school tennis in Ohio.”
Caitlyn joined her family in Minnesota in February. She finished her sophomore year by taking classes online. She is now junior at Edina and has taken over at No. 1 singles for the state’s most storied high school tennis program.
So far, she said, her time in Minnesota has been more enjoyable than she expected.
“When I got here, they showed me around and I really fell in love with this area,” she said. “I feel connected.”
Staff writer Jim Paulsen spoke with Merzbacher about the transition and her biggest surprise upon coming to the North Star State.
Q: What was your first thought when you heard you were moving to Minnesota?
A: That it’s really cold here. But when I got here, I thought it was really pretty. My dad loves Minnesota, so I knew something about the fun times here.
Q: What do you think about the level of high school tennis in Minnesota?
A: It’s surprisingly good. In Ohio, we have really strong tennis, but I was surprised at how good the level of players is here.
Q: You didn’t go to high school right away last year. How did you get comfortable here?
A: I played in a lot of tennis tournaments locally and around the country. I got to know some players. [Chanhassen’s] Hayley Haakenstad became one of my best friends. We played doubles together. She showed me around and I met a bunch of nice people.
Q: What is the most fun thing you’ve done?
A: I went to a Twins game. That stadium is pretty awesome.
Q: I suppose you were an Ohio State fan back home. Are you going to switch to Minnesota?
A: I was a big OSU fan, but knowing my dad loved Minnesota so much, I decided to give it a try. I think I’m ready to change my allegiance to Minnesota.
Q: What is the biggest surprise about Minnesota?
A: They definitely get into high school hockey. I watch a game on TV and I thought I was watching a pro game.
Q: Talk about your tennis game.
A: I’m a grinder. I like to stay in a point as long as I can, then attack and come to the net when I see a weakness. Some people say I have a [Jim] Courier backhand. It’s something that just comes naturally.
Q: Edina has won 16 straight state championships. What did you think when you heard that?
A: Winning 16 in a row is unheard of! To be on a team so dominant, it’s amazing. I’m so excited to be a part of it.
Q: Do you have a nickname yet?
A: We created “Cato” because everyone on our team likes to end things in “O.” My dad used to call me that. I like it.