Alexa Palen was an All-American even before she joined the Gophers women’s tennis team.
Or at least that’s how Gophers women’s coach Tyler Thomson saw her.
Thomson, Minnesota's 11th-year head coach, wrote “2013 All-American” on Palen’s recruiting itinerary when she came to Minnesota on her official visit — months before she struck her first ball in a Gophers uniform.
The junior has emerged as a singles standout in the Gophers' 9-1 start.
Few teams understand that better than the Gophers women’s tennis team.
No. 30 Minnesota won its sixth-straight match Sunday, defeating No. 60 Wisconsin 5-2 in Madison, Wis., in its conference opener.
The Gophers had losing streaks of four and eight matches during their 2011 campaign, which they finished with an 8-16 record. They have already won nine matches to start 2012, with their lone loss Feb. 5 at home to then-No. 28 Washington.
The women won their ninth consecutive match to surpass last year’s win total.
Phillip Arndt was the only men’s player to lose to the Badgers.
Gophers tennis players got the chance to play in a US Open qualifying event this past weekend at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center, and Baseline Director John Pratt was satisfied with the outcome.
“It turned out to be just a fantastic tournament,” Pratt said. “Five of the eight finalists on Sunday were Gophers or had Minnesota connections so it turned out to be a great showing for us and I think a great showing for the University.”
Baseline tennis center hosted the qualifier over the weekend.
Coming into the final weekend of the regular season, the Minnesota women’s tennis team had a chance to build some momentum before it crossed the finish line of a season highlighted by injuries instead of victories.
That’s exactly what the Gophers did.
Despite entering the weekend on a four-match losing streak, Minnesota won back-to-back matches for the first time since mid-February with home victories at Baseline Tennis Center against Illinois and Iowa to end the season with a 7-15 record.
Both the men’s and women’s teams closed out the tennis season with a pair of conference victories.