The No. 8 Michigan men’s tennis team (11-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) got to four points so quickly against Michigan State (6-9, 0-1) that the coaches let the Wolverines play out the rest of the matches on court, resulting in a 7-0 senior-led sweep of the Spartans.
Riding a seven-match win streak into the conference play, the Wolverines had the Spartans’ number right from the get-go. Using their own boisterous chants of “GO…BLUE” and suffocating doubles play, Michigan won the first point in twenty minutes with 6-0 wins at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles.
“I think third doubles was a big lift for us,” said Michigan head coach Adam Steinberg. “They got off to a great start and just lit the fire for everybody else. We needed that.
“We’ve been up-and-down (in doubles). We’ve had some good moments and some bad moments, but we are not going to be a great team until we start dominating the doubles point. That was great to see.”
But the Wolverines were not done, as senior Carter Lin used the energy of the home crowd to propel himself to a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 4 singles.
“Carter Lin has been fantastic this year,” said senior Alex Knight. “We always go into a match thinking we are already up because he does such a great job. He battles super hard and he’s a great team guy. We look to him to lead on the singles court and he always does that.”
With Michigan up 2-0, Knight was locked in a grueling first set at the No. 2 singles spot with Michigan State’s Josh Mukherjee, squeaking out a 7-5 win before making adjustments and asserting his dominance with a 6-0 second set to close out the Wolverines’ third point.
“I had so many deuce points and I was a little anxious going into it. We had a big crowd,” Knight said. “Once I realized, ‘Hey, you’re getting the balls you worked for. You’re just getting them a lot earlier than the players you typically play against,’ then it was easy from there.”
Senior Davis Crocker followed up Knight’s triumphant effort with one of his own at No. 5 singles, winning the fourth point and sealing the win for the Wolverines 6-2, 6-3.
However, the most special moment of the day occurred when senior Runhao Hua — who normally competes at No. 2 singles — cranked out a gutsy three-setter, 3-6, 6-3, 10-8, at the No. 1 position to start off his final season.
“(Hua) has had a great year. He’s on a big winning streak. I felt like he’s a senior. Let’s give him a chance to play one before he graduates,” said Steinberg. “He’s earned it. He’s been playing unbelievable, so we felt like this is a time we can make a change and give him a chance. I think he’s deserving of it.”
Michigan isn’t getting complacent as there is a long Big Ten season ahead. But the Wolverines will enjoy this rivalry win for now.