Having a season cut short due to a global pandemic is frustrating. In the midst of a six-match win streak during her senior season, graduate student Chiara Lommer watched her season crumble, just days after defeating the No. 33 player in the nation. Just when she was getting her form back, it was wrenched from her.
Frustrating doesn’t do it justice.
“I had just started to get back to the level where I had been,” Lommer said. “Getting that cut short was pretty devastating.”
Fast forward over ten months to this past Saturday, Lommer and the Michigan women’s tennis team at last made their return to the court.
Lommer wasted no time picking up right where she left off. But doing so wasn’t easy.
Locked into a battle with Wisconsin’s Ava Markham, Lommer had to overcome a 2-5 hole in the first set and 5-6 deficit in the second to earn a gritty 7-5, 7-6 (4) win. The comeback secured her first official victory in nearly a year and kept her win streak alive in the process.
Playing from behind, though, is nothing new for the Wolverines’ most experienced player.
“She’s going to fight for every point no matter what the score is,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “She wins by fighting and wants it so bad and she’s won some huge matches for us in the past.”
This weekend was representative of Lommer’s entire career: It’s not just that she wins, it’s how she wins.
After losing 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 to Northwestern’s Julie Byrne and her win streak on Sunday, Lommer finished the tournament against Ohio State’s Lisa Hofbauer. Following a deflating 6-2 first-set defeat, Lommer once again rallied, dominating the next two sets, 6-3, 6-4.
It hasn’t taken long for her work ethic and composure to rub off on the rest of the team.
Paired with freshman Jaedan Brown, Lommer dropped her first two games. The doubles tandem responded by rattling off six straight games to start Brown’s career off with a resilient win, and a 3-0 weekend as a duo.
With four freshmen joining the Wolverines this semester, Lommer’s experience and effort serve as an invaluable guide for the Michigan newcomers.
“It starts with her practice habits,” Bernstein said. “She’s one of our most intense, totally focused.”
Yet Lommer sees more of a reciprocal relationship between her and the Michigan newcomers.
“In those moments when I’m tired or feeling burnt out, just seeing their energy and how excited they are for college tennis makes me excited and happy,” Lommer said. “I feel like you can learn from anybody. As much as I try to help them with stuff about the team and how to manage the coaches and the stress, they definitely keep me positive and young and remind me how exciting everything is.”
Lommer has amassed 90 career wins in singles and 48 more in doubles over the course of her collegiate career. But, to her, returning to Michigan for a fifth year was not about adding to her collection of accolades.
“I love tennis and I love competing,” Lommer said. The feeling of being out there and playing for my team is kind of unmatchable.
“I just wasn’t comfortable with it being over. I knew that I wanted to come back and keep playing because it’s probably my favorite thing, believe it or not, still, five years later.”
And after a ten-month hiatus and an impressive opening weekend, Lommer is certainly making the most of her time on the court.
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