In her 11 years as the Michigan women’s tennis coach, Ronni Bernstein has been dominant in Big Ten play — leading her teams to seven Big Ten championships and a 111-6 conference record.
Returning to conference play on Saturday, the Wolverines (6-4 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) seemed poised to uphold those staggering numbers, dominating Nebraska, 7-0.
The day began with a back-and-forth 6-4 doubles victory from junior Giulia Pairone and freshman Anca Craciun on the No. 2 court. The pairs traded breaks in the first four games of the set and traded holds for the next five, leading to a 5-4 Michigan lead. The final game of the set came down to a 40-40 tie, resolved in an impressively long rally that Craciun ended with a perfectly placed strike, earning the Wolverines a 1-0 lead in doubles play.
A Cornhuskers victory on the No. 3 court tied up the doubles score, putting all eyes on the Michigan duo of seniors Brienne Minor and Kate Fahey. The duo battled Nebraska’s Vasanti Shinde and Marina Cozac to a 3-3 tie through the first six games, before winning three out of the next four and securing the doubles point for Michigan.
“(Minor and Fahey) have done so much for our program,” Bernstein said. “(They) have brought so much throughout the years, and I think the younger kids sort of feed off that, so everybody chipped in today.”
The two seniors added to their strong doubles win with outstanding performances in singles. In her first set, Minor stormed out to a 4-0 lead, but dropped the next four to even it up. She then managed to squeak out the next two to secure a hard-fought 6-4 first set victory. Minor rode her momentum into the second set, dispatching Reifeis, 6-2.
Fahey’s first set against Shinde featured a back-and-forth performance from both sides. After nine games, Fahey found herself in a 5-4 hole, but endeavored to fight off two set points and take a 6-5 lead. Shinde won the next game to force a tiebreaker, but Fahey dominated the closing stretch, scoring five straight points to win the first set. She controlled her second set the whole way, winning 6-1 and securing the victory.
Fahey now sits alone with the third most career wins in Michigan history with 118.
“I definitely feel a lot of pride in those achievements,” she said. “But when I think about what I want to do most at Michigan, it has to do with the team and doing it together. … When I think about what makes me most happy, it’s when we’re together.”
Behind Minor and Fahey, the Wolverines succeeded in singles play and didn’t drop a single set. Lommer was first to finish, securing a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Cozac on the No. 4 court. Moments later, Pairone triumphed 6-4, 6-1 on the No. 3 court, including victories in five straight games to close out her match. Craciun and sophomore Alyvia Jones added 6-4, 6-1 and 6-2, 6-2 wins, respectively, to complete the shutout for Michigan.
“We got on them and stayed on them,” Bernstein said. “That’s what we want to see. … If we can pull away like that in second sets, we’re gonna be a pretty good team.”