Applause and cries of “Go Blue!” echo off the walls of the Varsity Tennis Center. All eyes are on Court 2 as Michigan’s Connor Johnston and Harrison Brown face off against Baylor’s Roy Smith and Sven Lah. Coaches murmur words of advice to their players, while teammates shout words of encouragement from the sidelines. Then, all at once, the crowd retreats into silence.
There’s a loud pop as the ball is hit into play. A smacking sound as Brown returns the serve. Then, once again, the crowd erupts into cheers, as Brown’s shot flies past Smith’s outstretched racket and the ball bounces once, then twice, off the court, lifting the Wolverines past the Bears to earn Michigan the doubles point of the contest.
The No. 24 Wolverines (1-2) won two out of three doubles matches Sunday, a bright spot in a disheartening loss to No. 11 Baylor, who will move forward to the ITA tournament following Sunday’s win and a win Saturday over No. 12 Georgia.
“It was great that we were able to win the doubles on a tiebreaker,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “That’s really important to us going forward.”
In singles, Michigan was not able to put on as strong a showing, losing four of their six matches to the Bears. The Wolverines got off to a strong start, with four of the singles players winning the first set of their respective matches, but they could not hold onto the lead.
Freshman Andrew Fenty lost to Baylor’s Johannes Schretter 2-6, 6-3, 6-4; Senior Myles Schalet lost to Will Little of the Bears 7-6 (9), 6-0; Johnston lost to Matias Soto of Baylor 6-2, 2-6, 6-3; and freshman Patrick Maloney lost to Lah 6-4, 7-6 (4).
“We just have to work on being more aggressive at important times in the match,” Steinberg said. “We kind of sit back and hope and wait and wish the other team will miss. And it just doesn’t work that way against these top-ranked teams.”
Michigan’s technical prowess was on full display on Sunday, as the Wolverines often used shots with a manipulated spin on the ball to win points against the Bears, especially during the singles matches. The Wolverines were also very successful when they attacked at the net. The volley game was mostly a factor in the doubles, helping the Wolverines to win their two out of three matches.
“Some of the guys who have a good feel for the ball can manipulate it, and that’s an advantage,” Steinberg said. “Some of our guys are talented enough to do that.”