From strangers to teammates to family. Coaches from around the country preach that your teammates and coaching staff become your family when playing a college sport. For Minnesota women's tennis, there's nothing that could tear head coach Chuck Merzbacher away from sophomore Caitlyn Merzbacher because, well, they're family.
In 2015, Caitlyn joined the Minnesota family and made immediate impacts, especially with her doubles game. An unfortunate herniated disc forced surgery in August, halting play for the sophomore, but Coach believes that his daughter should be back on the court in spring 2017.
With family ties on and off the court and a head coach who's back under his alma mater, the Gophers are absolutely a strong force in the Big Ten.
"Coaching at my alma mater is amazing, and having Caitlyn come here just means life is good," Merzbacher said. "It's great to have a family member at practice. She's one of our eleven strong players."
Merzbacher has seen his daughter develop both on and off the court. He recognizes that it's not always easy to play for your father, but that they have a really strong relationship.
"She's more than just coach's daughter," Merzbacher said. "My days playing here are over. This center is more her's than mine."
Holding the most all-time career wins from his tenure in Minneapolis, Merzbacher understands the recipe for success. After taking over the program five years ago, Merzbacher made significant changes in the recruiting realm and now has a full squad of his recruits.
Noting the players (pictured below/Minnesota Athletics) are "hungry and motivated," coach believes they have everything it takes to compete well in the Big Ten, compete nationally, and to make the NCAA tournament.
For spring 2017, he hopes to see No. 1 Caroline Ryba continue her success from the fall into dual match season. Tina Kreinis, a freshman from Toronto, also posted excellent fall results and showed promising doubles tactics on the court. Merzbacher also said that Camila Vargas Gomez, a sophomore from Peru, has an excellent career ahead. With strength and depth among the lineup, Merzbacher also hopes to see his daughter make a spring comeback after surgery.
"She wants to be a part of our success and hopes to help in the doubles lineup and crack the singles lineup, too," Merzbacher said. "We have a lot of depth, and they always gives their best effort."