By Jason Rubinstein, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 28, 2013
The Michigan women’s tennis team had to be worried when they found out they’d be playing Northwestern. After all, the Wildcats have always proved to be the Kryptonite for the Wolverines.
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N0. 6 Michigan has met up with Northwestern in eight of the last nine Big Ten Tournament championships, and this year, like history has shown, the Wildcats continued their dominance. The Wolverines fell 4-1, ruining the any hope to earn their first conference tournament title since 1997.
“I don’t know if it’s that we work so hard during the regular season and then it’s tough to come back on the weekend of the tournament,” said Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein. “Obviously we are disappointed with the result, but we just got beat by the better team today, and they played better at all key moments of the match and that was the difference.”
Michigan (21-5) entered the tournament as the N0. 1 seed, and earned itself a first-round bye.
Entering the second round, the Wolverines matched up against Iowa (10-13), who Michigan took down 6-1 on April 27. The Wolverines dominated the Hawkeyes from the start and won 4-2, earning a spot in the semifinals against Purdue (17-5), who edged out Michigan for the tournament title in 2012.
The Wolverines went on to blank Purdue, 4-0, pitting them against its archrival Northwestern.
Michigan has found winning the doubles point to be crucial to the outcome of the match. The Wolverines are undefeated when winning the doubles point, and just .500 when losing it.
But Sunday, when Michigan would need it most, the doubles point wasn’t there.
Despite sophomore Emina Bektas's and junior Brooke Boldender's 8-4 victory at the first spot, the Wolverines found themselves down at the second and third spots. Michigan’s third pair of freshmen, Ronit Yurovsky and sophomore Kristen Dodge, suffered early breaks and fell into a 7-2 hole. Senior Mimi Nguyen and sophomore Sarah Lee couldn’t fight off their opponents either, losing 8-5.
With the doubles point in Northwestern’s hands, the Wolverines needed to be consistent and dominant in singles. The margin of error was slim.
Bektas responded well, defeating her opponent 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. With the win, the meet was tied at one.
But Michigan lost its momentum, and Northwestern proved too mentally strong to allow one loss to affect them.
Minutes after Bektas’s win, the Wildcats earned a win at the second and sixth spots, earning the 3-1 lead. They then closed the meet, earning a win at the fourth spot and securing the tournament title.
“Northwestern competes really hard,” Bernstein said. “There were a couple of matches where it would’ve been great to get off the court and get a point on the board, but they turned it around and won close second sets and that was the difference. Hats off to them.”
Michigan will head to the regional tournament May 1o, and the Wolverines will have to forget about this one bump in the road and look ahead.
“We’ve had a great year,” Bernstein said. “Obviously we are disappointed about today but if you look at the big picture, we won the regular season and made it to the finals of the tournament. We’re going to forget about this and remember the positive stuff.”