By Jeff Garland, For the Daily
Published March 14, 2013
Despite trailing throughout much of the match, the Michigan men’s tennis team finally grasped a late lead and held on for a much-needed win against Michigan State in East Lansing, 4-3.
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Entering Thursday’s Big Ten opener, the Wolverines had lost five straight matches, including four to ranked opponents.
Michigan coach Bruce Berque noted how this adversity played a role in Thursday night’s match.
“I think we drew a little confidence from (our performance) in those matches,” he said.
The match didn’t start out well for Michigan, as the Spartans used the energy from their home court to steal the point from the best-of-three doubles component. The Wolverines were charged with the task of winning four of the six singles matches to beat their rival in the best-of-seven, dual-match format. And none of those matches were easy — all four went the full three sets.
Michigan found its emotional spark in the form of a confident plea from Berque, who gathered his team together in between the doubles and singles matches and told them, “We are the better team, and we need to fight.”
The Wolverines clawed their way back, splitting the first four singles matches but still trailed Michigan State by one in the overall match, needing to win the final two singles matches.
Pitted in the No. 1 singles match was reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, senior Evan King. King had already teamed with junior Alex Buzzi earlier to secure Michigan’s lone doubles win, 8-3, and he continued his fine play by defeating his Michigan State opponent, Aaron Pfister, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Sophomore Vlad Stefan was the last Wolverine standing. After a successful freshman year for Maryland, Stefan had been struggling so far this year with his new squad, posting a 1-6 individual record in dual-match play. Inspired by his teammates rooting him on, Stefan dominated the deciding set to clinch the match, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1.
“It felt awesome to finally get a win,” Stefan said.
Added the normally even-keel junior captain Barrett Franks: “(Winning) always tastes a little sweeter against Michigan State.”