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'M' tennis places third at ITA Kickoff, fails to qualify for National Indoors

BY MATT RUDNITSKY
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 30, 2011

Virginia Tech's Corrado Tocci may not have ordered a bagel on Saturday, but Michigan men's tennis team fresman Shaun Bernstein served him two, anyway.

In an overall disappointing weekend, Bernstein gave the Wolverines something to cheer about, winning 6-0, 6-0 — the rare “double bagel.”

The win helped No. 24 Michigan get past No. 25 Virginia Tech in the consolation round of the ITA Kickoff Weekend in Durham, N.C. by a score of 4-2 after the Wolverines were shut out by No. 14 Duke, 7-0, in the first round.

"(Bernstein's win) was impressive," Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “(Tocci) is really good, normally plays at the top half of their lineup. We watched him play yesterday, and he won against the kid from Pepperdine. It doesn't surprise me that Shaun bounced back.

"He's serious about the sport. His win was big for himself, and big for the team. To tie the match so quickly after losing the doubles point really swung momentum back to our side and gave our guys a lot of confidence."

Bernstein leads the team — along with senior captain Jason Jung — with 11 wins this season.

Jung won at No. 2 and freshman Barrett Franks won at No. 6, both in straight sets.

The Wolverines also benefitted from a straight-sets win from sophomore Evan King at No. 1 singles that clinched the victory for Michigan.

"Virginia Tech is a good team," Berque said. "We watched their match with Pepperdine yesterday and knew that we would have our hands full today. It's not easy to beat a team like that. We competed well on every court."

But Michigan lost the doubles point for the third consecutive match — a red flag as Big Ten play approaches.

"Doubles is disappointing, obviously." Berque said. "We'll get better there. Evan and Jason played a lot better. We didn't play well or execute well today and they did. Give them credit. Our doubles play needs to get better, and we're confident that it will."

The Wolverines’ No. 1 duo of Jung and King did get a routine 8-3 win, but the remaining two pairs lost, giving the Hokies the point. Freshman Alex Buzzi made his dual-match debut with a loss at No. 3.

And things were even worse in doubles for Michigan on Friday against Duke, as it lost two matches fairly easily to allow the Blue Devils to jump out to a 1-0 lead. The third match was abandoned after Duke clinched the point, with Michigan trailing 8-7.

In singles play, Duke sustained its dominance, winning all six matches — five of them in straight sets.

Bernstein almost got the Wolverines off the schneid as he was leading 6-3, 4-3 late in the second set. But he struggled from then on, losing the next three games and then finally succumbing to Fred Saba of Duke, 10-6, in a super tiebreaker.

It was a solid showing by Bernstein, but it wasn’t enough to stop Duke from shutting out Michigan. The Wolverines’ loss knocked them out of contention for a berth at the ITA National Team Indoors Championship — an event they haven't qualified for since the 2008-09 season.

But despite the lopsided loss, Michigan (2-2 overall) showed resiliency, bouncing back the next day with a solid win against the Hokies.

"I think they responded well (to the loss against Duke),” Berque said. "This was our first time playing back-to-back matches, which isn't a problem physically, but we came here with the thought of winning two matches and making it to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships."

Duke also may be under-ranked even at No. 14, as it boasts a lineup that includes the Nos. 5, 9 and 118 singles players in the country, as well as the No. 12 doubles team. The Wolverines have just one ranked singles player in No. 35 Jung and one ranked doubles pair in No. 28 Jung and King.

“To go out and get beat pretty decisively by Duke (Friday) was certainly a disappointing loss," Berque said after bouncing back against Virginia Tech. "We have a lot of freshmen on our team, and to see them respond so well out there today was encouraging. I could tell right away.

“We were on the court practicing at about 7:30 this morning to get that taste out of our mouth. These guys are all eager to get better. They came out with a lot of energy and a lot of confidence."