By far the youngest team at last weekend’s Spartan Invitational, the Wisconsin women’s tennis team hopes to continue its success at this weekend’s Wildcat Invitational hosted by Northwestern.
Expectations are high for freshman standout Lauren Chypyha after she won the Draw B singles championship in what was her first collegiate tournament.
“It was a good feeling,” Chypyha said of her first tournament win on the collegiate stage. “I went out there and didn’t have any expectations because I had never played anyone there before. I just gave every point my all and it turned out well for me.”
The tournament proved to turn out well for almost the entire team, as four of the team’s five freshmen got their first collegiate win under their belt.
The only exception came in Montclair, N.J., native Katie Hoch’s match, where she retired midway through her second match (4-6, 2-1) and ended up later withdrawing from the entire tournament. In her opening match, Hoch lost to Miami University’s Christine Guerrazzi in the Draw C singles (3-6, 6-7, 0-6).
“I plan on talking with the trainers and doctors before we leave and it will be a gametime decision on whether she competes or not,” head coach Brian Fleishman said of Hoch’s status for the Wildcat Invitational.
Injuries aside, the Spartan Invitational was a step in the right direction for this extremely young, but talented, Badger team.
“We couldn’t be more pumped up for this weekend,” senior captain Hannah Berner said. “Each week they have so many things to look forward to because they are so young, and we use that to our advantage and see playing new teams and new players as challenges that they are all willing to rise up and meet.”
“They’re almost too young to realize what they’re getting themselves into … I’m just the old lady on the team.”
At 21 years young, Berner doesn’t exactly fit the standard of “old,” but she did raise a key point that could be the Badgers’ downfall this season. Berner, aside from sophomore Nova Patel, is the only non-freshman Fleishman has on his roster.
“Being a senior comes with maturity and I feel like I know what it means to be a Badger and what it takes to set the right example,” said Berner, refuting the idea that having only one senior is a burden on this team. “All of the girls are buying into the system really well and by the time their senior year rolls around they are going to be perfect examples of what it means to be a Badger.”
While it’s easy to look to the future with a group with as much potential as this year’s squad, the players know they must focus on the task at hand and right now that is the Wildcat Invitational.
“Last weekend was an introduction to the college tennis scene,” Fleishman said. “I know the freshmen will build on their first experience and it will only get better with time. My job is to motivate each day. We play and we learn. Complacency is not what being a Badger is about; it’s about working hard every day to get better.”
This week in practice the team focused on “setting up the points and then finishing.” Fleishman also emphasized “taking care of the details during a match can sometimes determine the outcome of a match” with his young roster.
In order for this weekend to be a success, both Chypyha and Berner agreed that it’s a matter of tallying up victories.
“We need some big wins against some [Big Ten] teams and, perhaps more importantly, we just need to perform,” Chypyha said. “If we perform the way we do in practice, the wins will take care of themselves.”
Berner followed suit by proposing that a successful weekend would be one where the team picks up key wins over conference opponents.
“We want to let them know that we’re here and we’re going to not only beat them this weekend, but also in the regular season,” she said.
If the team can battle for wins and help each other learn along the way, they may experience more of the same success this weekend that they enjoyed last week in East Lansing.
“I want to be able to inspire these girls so that in a couple of years when they’re in my shoes they can inspire the next group of freshmen because that’s what it’s all about,” Berner said. “Passing down the Badger tradition.”
“When this team learns how to play for each other and take care of the details, we will be a challenging team for our opponents,” Fleishman said. “We want to make the NCAA tournament at the end of the season. As for what happens beyond this year, it will only get better.”
Chypyha will face off against Northwestern’s Belinda Niu in the first round Friday, while Berner will take on Minnesota’s Tereza Brichacova.