‘M’ stays perfect after blanking Kentucky 7-0

James Weaver/Daily
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Daily Sports Writer
Published February 6, 2011

The last time the Michigan women's tennis team met Kentucky, it was 2008 – the first year of Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein’s career in Ann Arbor.

Kentucky easily won, blanking Michigan, 7-0.

This time around, the seventh-ranked Wolverines came back swinging and won all nine matches to keep their four-game home series a perfect one.

Michigan (4-0 overall) took its match on Saturday against the Wildcats, 7-0, making Kentucky the second visitor in four matches at the Varsity Tennis Center to leave with a 7-0 loss.

“Our seniors were freshmen the last time we faced Kentucky, and it was only their second match at Michigan,” Bernstein said. “Obviously, a lot has changed. We have great seniors and obviously our freshmen are stepping up. Everyone is stepping up.”

Michigan kicked off the competition in doubles, sweeping all three matches to take the point and the early lead. At one time, all three Wolverine pairs led 4-2, before clinching their matches in various fashions.

Senior Rika Tatsuno and junior Michelle Sulahian were the first pair off the court, beating Kentucky’s Khristina Blajkevitch and CeCe Witten at No. 3, 8-2.

The tandem at No. 2 doubles – sophomore Mimi Nguyen and freshman Sam Critser – clinched the point for Michigan, taking its match shortly after, 8-3.

The Wolverines entered singles play and took a strong stance from the first volley. Four of the six Michigan singles players took their first set by at least three games.

Eleventh-ranked senior Denise Muresan led off, taking the match at No. 1 singles 6-1, 6-1. This was Muresan’s 93rd victory, moving her up to fifth for all-time wins in the Michigan women’s tennis program.

“I just had a good week of practice and learned from the loss that I had last week against USC,” Muresan said. “I’m so proud of the team. They had a really great win.”

Nguyen continued the Wolverines’ point streak, taking charge at the No. 4 slot and winning 6-2, 6-3, while Sulahian sealed the match for Michigan at the sixth singles court with a straight-set victory.

The next three points all went the Wolverines’ way – but not without a fight.

Freshman Brooke Bolender, after winning her first set, fought back after a 3-2 deficit in the second. After Kentucky’s Jessica Stiles tied the set at 6-6, sending it to a tiebreaker, Bolender fell behind 5-2. A few solid rallies and help from a third party – the net – allowed her to come back in the tiebreaker set and win the match, 6-4, 7-6(6).

“She just stepped back a little bit and was waiting for her opponent to maybe make mistakes instead of sticking with her game,” Bernstein said of Bolender’s second set. “When we get in those positions, I want them to step up and go for it, instead of letting their opponents to come at them. Brooke did that in the end.”

Michigan stays perfect on the year as it prepares for its first road match of the season. The Wolverines will travel to South Bend on Thursday to play the Fighting Irish.

“It’s nice to get Kentucky back for sure, “ Berstein said. “But it’s just one win. It gets tougher next week with Notre Dame.”