Wolverines can't match Tulsa's depth, win streak snapped

Terra Molengraff/Daily
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Daily Sports Writer
Published March 13, 2011

The Michigan men’s tennis team seems to have a flair for the dramatic.

However, Friday night against Tulsa, the Wolverines were on the wrong side of a tragedy.

After winning the doubles point, where the Wolverines (7-4) have struggled this year, Michigan fell 4-2 in single matches, unable to match the depth of a Tulsa lineup with four ranked singles players, losing the last of four consecutive one-point decisions.

Coming off of a three-game winning streak which included road victories at No. 6 Duke, at Hawaii and at No. 23 Notre Dame, the young Wolverines lacked the depth and experience to beat the 37th-ranked Golden Hurricane (11-4).

Despite No. 12 Michigan’s inability to extend their team winning streak, two Wolverines were able to do so. Sophomore Evan King continued his spectacular sophomore campaign with another victory over a ranked opponent. The 27th-ranked King has now won his last eight matches with six of those victories coming over other ranked singles players. On Friday, King defeated No. 53 Marcelo Arevalo in consecutive sets.

“I’ve definitely been playing pretty well this year,” King said after the match. “I’ve been practicing hard in 2011, and I think the work I put in Monday through Thursday showed up today. I’ve been playing pretty well and my confidence was pretty high.”

Added Michigan coach Bruce Berque: “In the last month he has been practicing a lot better. He’s starting to understand the connection between what he does on a daily basis to what kind of results are going to come his way in the long term. He’s starting to improve at a quicker pace and he’s taking a little more ownership in his improvement … he’s starting to take advantage of every day in practice to be the best player he can be.”

The only other Michigan player to win a singles match was freshman Justin Rossi, who has been jumping around the Michigan singles order for much of the season. For the last several matches, Rossi has played out of the five spot with considerable success, winning his last three matches. Rossi has displayed more than skill in his three-match winning streak; for the second time this season, he proved relentless despite Tulsa’s clinched victory. Thirty minutes after Tulsa clinched the victory with a 4-2 lead, Rossi made it 4-3, defeating Grant Ive in four sets.

“He’s one of the best I’ve ever had, especially as a freshman,” Berque said. “He sets very high standards for himself when it comes to competing and mental toughness. He was pretty disciplined today with his play … He wants to be aggressive, and he wants to play at a really high level, but we are trying to get him to play a little smarter.”

Senior Chris Madden — who missed the entire fall season and the beginning of this season due to a wrist injury — continued to struggle in his return, but showed signs of improvement Friday playing in the six spot. With the Wolverines trailing 3-2 and Madden playing through a rolled ankle, Madden gave Michigan fans hope as he began to rally back from a 5-2 third set deficit aided by Tristan Jackson’s third overrule of the match, which led to a set penalty. However, Madden was unable to complete the comeback and the Wolverines’ hopes faded.

Berque hoped the loss taught his players that college tennis this season is as competitive as ever.

“The team has fought hard this year,” Berque said. “They always compete well. There is so much parity in college tennis this year, it doesn’t matter what your ranking you know you’re going to get a tough match every time. They’ve seen that pretty clearly now and they just need to keep plugging away and keep working hard to get better and hopefully they will continue to get some good results."