Michigan's leading ladies battle with ranked Buckeyes
Down four games to none in the second set of a best-of-three singles match, Michigan freshman Brienne Minor had had enough.
For the final point of the fifth game, Minor sent Ohio State’s Gabrielle De Santis zig-zagging back and forth across the front court, eventually placing the ball just out of reach. The comeback was on.
From there, she seized the next four games in a row, taking a 5-4 advantage. Coupled with her 6-2 victory in the first set, the second set’s ultimate outcome — a 7-5 decision in favor of Minor — gave the Wolverines their first team point of the afternoon.
“I was backing off a little because I was nervous and didn’t want to miss, but I knew that wasn’t going to help me,” Minor said. “So I was just thinking about what I did in the first set and started being more aggressive. That was all I could do.”
The more aggressive approach proved successful for Minor, who was one of a couple of bright spots during the 12th-ranked Wolverines’ matchup with the 16th-ranked Buckeyes.
The non-conference contest presented challenges for Michigan across the board. In addition to her matchup with De Santis, Minor paired up with sophomore Mira Ruder-Hook to take on the No. 6 doubles team in the country, Ohio State’s Anna Sanford and Miho Kowase.
Minor and Ruder-Hook played toe-to-toe with the formidable duo, finding themselves up, 40-15, with the match tied at five games apiece.
But the two other pairs of Wolverines competing in the doubles round — sophomore Alex Najarian and senior Ronit Yurovsky, and freshman Kate Fahey and junior Sara Remynse — fell to their Buckeye counterparts, giving Ohio State the doubles point and rendering Minor and Ruder-Hook’s game null, ending it early.
“We were right there,” Ruder-Hook said. “We were frustrated, but you can’t always assume you’re going to get to finish.”
Added Minor: “We were both like, ‘Shoot,’ but it’s going to happen; you have to get used to it. They are a really good team. It definitely wasn’t easy, but we never stopped fighting and that just made the match so much better.”
In the singles round, Ruder-Hook was given another chance to beat the nationally ranked doubles team — or half of it, anyway. As Minor battled against De Santis on the adjacent court, Ruder-Hook faced off with Ohio State’s Kowase.
The two were back and forth with a shanked serve here and a rocket to the corner there. Ultimately, Kowase prevailed, defeating Ruder-Hook, 7-5 and 6-4 in the first and second sets, respectively.
“I’ve played a lot of girls that are pretty defensive players and (Kowase) moves well,” Ruder-Hook said. “I think I just didn’t play the big ones well enough and just wasn’t tough enough in those moments. I don’t think I won a single deuce point … and a 7-5, 6-4, with seven deuce points could go either way.”
Michigan as a team lost to Ohio State, 4-2, with the Buckeyes earning the doubles point and taking three of the five finished singles games.
Even so, the efforts of Minor and Ruder-Hook — the Wolverines’ No. 1 doubles team — gave Michigan a chance.