Harrison Brown was struggling, and everyone at the Varsity Tennis Center could hear it.
The encouraging correspondence between Brown and his teammates, once consistently following each point, had reached the lowest volume of the night. The junior had just lost his third straight set of the day, each of which had necessitated at least a seventh game. After one match loss, he was staring down the barrel of a second when he suddenly faced a 3-0 deficit in the second set of his second match.
All of this was readily apparent if you just closed your eyes.
Throughout the No. 16 Michigan men’s tennis team’s pair of wins last Saturday — a 4-2 afternoon affair against No. 8 Texas Christian and a 4-2 win that evening against Western Michigan — each Wolverines’ point was every teammate’s concern, and they let that be known loudly.
“It’s something that I’ve believed in for 25 years of doing this,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “Trying to take an individual sport and make it a team sport, and these guys are doing a great job of doing that.”
After a surprisingly straightforward win over the Horned Frogs, the program’s first top-ten victory since 2011 — in which Michigan earned three consecutive straight-sets singles matches — the Wolverines relied on each other to keep the energy boiling over into the nightcap.
Junior Mattias Siimar, who just hours earlier had clinched the fourth and final point for Michigan’s first win of the day, was mired in a pattern of unforced errors during his No. 1 doubles match.
Positive communication with his partner, sophomore Andrew Fenty. Having overcome his earlier poor play, Siimar’s powerful serves elicited weaker and weaker returns — plenty of fodder for Fenty, waiting at the net, to smash over the back curtain.
“Mattias and I have great chemistry,” Fenty said. “He’s honestly very easy to play with. We lead the team when we play — our energy, I think everyone can feed off that. It’s a good trickle-down effect.”
During singles play, communication began with equal enthusiasm.
“We’re in this together, Harry, you and me!” senior Connor Johnston — who Steinberg describes as the team’s emotional leader — called toward Brown a few games into their respective matches. Johnston and Brown weren’t even on adjacent courts.
As Brown’s second set grinded on toward his defeat, the cheerful discourse began to lose his voice. The absence of Brown’s contributions underlined his difficulties as much as his opponent’s rising numbers on the scoreboard.
Johnston worked his own opponent deep into games but began to struggle on deuce points. Watching from the balcony, his teammates had a simple message for him.
It was a reminder that this crucial point was not a cause for worry, but for optimism. Johnston had already won three points. What was one more?
The Wolverines worked up the singles points they needed thanks to a pair of straight-sets wins and a dominant latter two sets from Fenty.
“The best memory obviously is match point for Mattias (Siimar, against Texas Christian) and seeing the guys charge the court and dancing in the locker room after,” Steinberg said.
That may have been Saturday’s exclamation mark, but a win against Western Michigan was the period that concluded the story.
It was a period every player helped type.