After she recovered from an injury, junior Barbara Mancera has improved with her new team.
Mancera is 13-4 in singles play during the spring season on the women's tennis team and plays predominantly in the No. 4 position. She went 6-10 in the No. 3 spot last season, her first year with the Gophers.
"I had a broken foot, so I could not get as many matches in, but the coaches have helped a lot with the recovery,” Mancera said of her first season with the team. “The doctors have been great with physical therapy, and I just feel so much better than l did last year.”
Mancera said, for most of her sophomore year, she dealt with a chronic sesamoid fracture in her right foot. She suffered the injury the summer before arriving in Minnesota.
According to the American College Foot and Ankle Surgeons, a sesamoid fracture is caused by increased pressure on the ball of the foot beneath the big toe joint. Mancera said the key to her game is to run and use her athleticism to outhustle an opponent. She could not do that with this type of injury.
At first, she just dealt with the pain and played through the fall and part of the spring season. However, the pain was eventually too much for her. She opted for surgery in April, cutting her 2016-17 season short.
Head coach Catrina Thompson said Mancera healing from an injury has made a big difference in her game.
“She has been able to consistently practice with the team day in and day out, which is probably the biggest reason she has been able to play so well this year,” Thompson said.
Mancera grew up in Mexico City before coming to Minnesota. There, Mancera said, she was given the nickname “Bita” by her mother, whose name is also Barbara. “Bita,” is short for Barbarita and means little Barbara. She's been called that name since she was five years old.
Mancera was recruited by North Carolina State and went 8-9 at the school as a freshman. She decided to transfer to Minnesota for academic reasons.
"I knew that the University of Minnesota has a great economics program, so I came here,” Mancera said. “The weather might be a little iffy, but everything else is amazing.”
Senior captain Caroline Ryba said Mancera brings a certain competitive edge to practice that is unique. The energy Mancera creates, Ryba said, with being so competitive, creates a fun atmosphere.
Mancera will look to continue her current form when the Gophers play Michigan and Indiana over the weekend. Though she has gotten off to a winning record in singles play, Mancera said she is more focused on what the team needs to do.
“I don’t think I personally have too many individual goals; I just want to help the team and we just want to work to be a top five team in the Big Ten and make the NCAA tournament,” Mancera said.