Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
Wanna watch some high level tennis? Indoors or outdoors?
The place to go is the U's main campus. The Gophers, under third-year coach Chuck Merzbacher, will host a 13-team tournament.
Meaning all the available courts inside and outside will be used at times for matches.
Who's there? Five Iowa schools: Drake, Iowa, Iowa St., and Northern Iowa. Two from Wisconsin, the Badgers and UW-Milwaukee. Three from the Dakotas: North Dakota, South Dakota and South Dakota St.
And a couple out of the region: Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois and Kentucky.
Doubles matches will be played first each day, starting at 9 a.m.
Friday there will be five eight-team doubles draws and each will play down to a winning team. Saturday and Sunday new doubles draws will do the same thing.
In singles, there will be five 16-player draws and one eight-player draw. One round of singles will be played Friday, two Saturday and one Sunday.
OK, it's kinda complex. But I'm sure there will be draws posted somewhere so fans who stop by can figure out who is playing whom, when and where.
Merzbacher seems to have the Gophers going in the right direction in terms of becoming a winner. His first team was 10-5 overall, 3-8 in the Big Ten. Last year the Gophers improved to 17-9 and 6-5. That's the most overall wins and Big Ten wins since 2003.
The Gophers return seven players, including four who had over 20 wins. They are:
* Julia Courter, 25-16 in singles, 24-10 in doubles ... She was on a doubles team that took third in the top flight of this tournament a year ago. ... Junior from Lawrenceville, Ga.
* Aria Lambert, 24-14 in singles ... Senior from Deephaven. ... Only Minnesotan on Gophers roster.
* Jessika Mozia ... 23-17 in singles ... She won her flight in this tournament a year ago. ... Junior from Littleton, Colo.
* Tereza Brichacova ... 20-16 in singles, 16-18 in doubles ... She played No. 1 singles in 22 spring matches. ... She won her flight in this tournament a year ago. ... Senior from Prague, Czech Republic.
Newcomers are two freshmen, Caroline Ryba from Glenville, Ill., and Mehvish Safdar from Mason, Ohio, and junior Alexandra Bergman, a transfer from UConn.
On the other 12 teams, there are seven Minnesotans returning home. Here is the short list:
Drake: Summer Brills, North Oaks
Iowa State: Natalie Phippen, Lakeland
North Dakota: Aliza Deming, Afton; Lexi Larson, Long Prairie; Faith Lee, Andover, Lacey Sprinkel, Minneapolis
South Dakota St.: Tacy Haws-Lay, Minneapolis
What's eye-opening is the number of international players in college tennis. There are 51 in this tournament, from 24 different countries.
Countries with more than one player in the Minnesota Invitational:
England 6; Spain 5; Canada 4 (all from Ontario); Brazil, Columbia, Czech Republic, Germany 3.
Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Indonesia, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine 2.
Countries with one:
Croatia, El Salvador, France, India, Isreal, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.
Kentucky is probably the team to watch in this tournament. The Wildcats made the NCAA tournament last spring for the first time since 2009 and reached the Round of 16 before falling 4-1 to Virginia.
They are led by jr. Nadia Ravita, of Jakarta, Indonesia. She lost in the first round of the singles draw in the NCAA tournament. This fall she is ranked No. 41 in singles in the ITA preseason rankings and No. 12 in doubles with partner Aldila Sutjiadi, also from Jakarta.
The Wildcats finished 17-12 overall and 6-9 in the SEC last season.
Sophomore Wally Ellenson of the Gophers can jump.
And on Friday he cleared 6-9-1/2 on the first try at the NCAA West Prelims in Fayetteville, Ark. Then he cleared 6-11-1/2 on the first try and 7-1, too.
Then he stopped. So did everyone who made that height. All of them made the NCAA meet June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore.
The top 12 high jumpers advanced, and 11 cleared 7-1.
Ellenson was one of six who did it without a miss up to that height, so he tied for first.
He'll, obviously, have to go higher at Eugene if he wants to duplicate what he did a year ago, an All-America showing with a top eight finish.
Teammate Jon Lehman, a senior captain on the U track and field team also is headed West. He finished fourth in the hammer throw, heaving the hammer 214 feet on his fifth toss. Five of his six throws were over 200 feet, so he was pretty consistent.
This will be his first NCAA meet.
Zach Siegmeier, another senior, tied for sixth in the pole vault on Thursday, earning a spot in the national meet as well.
“We’re certainly happy for Jon and Wally. They’ve both had great seasons for us, and we’re excited about their prospects next month in Eugene,” said Steve Plasencia, director of the Gophers men's track and field program.
“We have one more day to move some guys on, and hopefully we’ll continue the success we’ve had over the first two days of competition.”
Gophers men will be competing in three events on Saturday: discus, 1,500 and 4x400.
Not sure what Jessica Allister's contract situation is, but Norwood Teague is lucky to have her.
The softball program looks like it is in good hands.
In Allister's fourth season, the team reached its first super regional, won the Big Ten tournament, and went 44-12.
And, there's this, going into the seventh inning on Sunday, the Gophers were within a run, 3-2, of the favorite to win the NCAA tournament. Oregon wound up sweeping the U 10-2 (not a good game for the Gophers) and 6-2.
But Minnesota has the core of its team returning. Pitcher Sara Moulton will graduate and she owns most of the program's career records. So, too, will center fielder Bree Blanchette. She hit only .204 but had 24 RBI, tied for fifth on the team. Good defensively, too.
The only other senior is Kelsey Klucas, who was used only as a pinch runner. ... The seniors won 142 games in their four seasons, reaching 30-plus every season.
But Sara Groenewegen and Nikki Anderson should be able to eat up most of Moulton's innings.
Groenewegen was the Big Ten pitcher of the year and freshman of the year. She's a good arm to build a staff around. She threw a no-hitter and also 6.1 no-hit innings in one relief outing in the regional at Minneapolis.
She can strike batter out, 11.6 per seven innings -- best rate in country. Oh, and she can hit, too. Batted .299 with 11 homers. She plays first went not in the circle.
Anderson, a sophomore, actually had the best ERA on the team, 1.60. She also trhrows hard and had 51 strikeouts in 42 innings. Made 20 relief appearances. Closed the door on Auburn in the championship game of the regional in one of them.
Gophers also signed righthander Kylie Stober of Lakeville South.
So the Gophers should be more than OK in pitching.
Hitting? The Gophers will return two of the best in the Big Ten, first team all-conference picks Kaitlyn Richardson and Tyler Walker, who play third and short. Richardson hit .418 with 21 double, 10 homers and 51 RBI.
Walker hit two homers against Oregon. She also has pop, especially for a leadff hitter with a .382 average. She had 13 doubles, eight triples and 12 homers and 50 RBI. Also got hit 12 times by pitches. So she got on base a lot.
The Gophers return their top four players in RBI and Erica Meyer, who tied for fifth with 24.
Besied Stober, the Gophers also signed five other players, two from Minnesota, one from Michigan, one from Iowa and one from Arizona.
After the second loss to Oregon ended the Gophers' season, Richardson said, "You have to give us credit, we've done a lot this year."
Allister expects her team to come back hungry, wanting to do even more next season.
"The more you get a taste of thing, the more you want it. ... [Getting to Super Regionals for the first time] is a huge step for our program."
And on Sunday, when the Gophers needed to win twice, the day began with bad news.
Groenewegen, who was scheduled to start the first game that day was unavailable. She was ruled out because of injury.
The Gophers didn't say what was wrong with her, but Oregon coach Mike White didn't hesitate. He said Groenewegen had a concussion.
Would have been interesting to see Groenewegen, a strikeout pitcher, against the aggressive Ducks.
Maybe next season.
Oregon coach Mike White was piling it on after the Ducks embarrassed the Gophers 10-2 on Saturday night in a softball Super Regional.
"Minnesota is a great opponent. ... They never give up, they keep coming. ... I'm sure it will be a tough series tomorrow. ... Don't think this is over."
Was he serious? Hard to say. Not sure about this New Zealand native with Midwest ties -- he went to Mt. Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
What is probable, is that the Gophers will play better at 4 p.m. Sunday (ESPN) when the teams meet again. Hard to play worse.
The Ducks ran around the bases at will when Sara Moulton was on the mound. She was tagged for eight runs -- four earned -- and eight hits in three innings.
Nikki Anderson, a sophomore lefthander, was more effective: Two runs in two-plus inning, four hits.
Maybe the Big Ten pitcher of the year can do even better.
Sara Groenewegen played first base Saturday, but the Gophers have to start her in Game 2. She's a power pitcher who can keep Ducks off the bases.
The freshman righthander has struck out 185 in 112 innings. She whiffs 11.6 per seven innings -- that's the best rate in the country.
Groenewegen has struck out 10 or more batters seven times this season. Her season-best is 14, a mark set in her second-career start against Central Arkansas. She tied that number May 2 in a 3-0 loss at Purdue.
The Gophers need to slow down the Ducks' offense, which thrives on speed, which in turn creates chaos.
Minnesota committed four errors Saturday. Each pitcher made made, center fielder Bree Blanchette made one and catcher Taylor LeMay one. The Ducks also were 4-for4 stealing bases.
"We tried to play the game a little fast," Gophers coach Jessica Allister said.
"We struggled," shortstop Tyler Walker said.
The Ducks were as fired up as could be. Last year, when they were the No. 3 seed in the tournament, Nebraska came to Eugene and won 2-of-3 to end Oregon's season.
Oregon didn't want a repeat.
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