Women’s tennis excited to start season

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Junior Emina Bektas is ranked No. 25 in the preseason ITA poll. Buy this photo

By Jason Rubinstein, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 18, 2013

The Michigan women’s tennis team is eyeing a fresh start. Despite getting ousted by UCLA in last year’s NCAA Sweet 16, the Wolverines return their entire singles lineup while adding a star-studded recruiting class.

The rejuvenated lineup faces its first test when it plays in this weekend’s Wolverine Invitational. Michigan will face Notre Dame, DePaul, Tulane, Purdue and Arizona State in a mixture of singles and doubles.

Sitting atop the lineup is junior Emina Bektas, who is ranked No. 25 in the preseason ITA poll. Bektas was voted to the All-Big Ten first team and changed her summer routine to refine her craft.

“Mostly this summer, I tried to stay in a competitive shape by playing tournaments,” Bektas said. “Last summer, I didn’t do a good job of that and being in competitive matches is something you can’t just practice.”

Sophomore Ronit Yurovsky should also make an impact. The reigning Big TenFreshman of the Year saw time at the No. 1 slot, and with Bektas, forms one of the strongest one-two punches in the country.

But don’t count out the three newcomers. Sara Remynse, a five-star recruit according to TennisRecruiting.net, highlights the freshmen class. The Richland, Mich., native was the No. 31 recruit in the nation.

Joining Remynse are Colombia native Laura Ucros and Annie Weirda from Holland, Mich. And all of them are already making themselves known in practice.

“The freshmen have been great,” Bektas said. “They have really provided a new aspect. Sara, Annie and Laura have all been great and have a great chemistry with us already.”

Added senior Brooke Bolender: “I’m very impressed with the freshmen. They came in knowing that they were freshmen, but at the same time knowing they were a big part of the team. We need our freshmen to contribute as much as everyone else, and they’ve come in strong.”

Michigan especially needs its freshmen to step up in the doubles game. The Wolverines tried many different pairings last season but couldn’t consistently produce at the bottom spots. Bektas and Bolender were often the only duo to secure victories at dual meets, and their success earned them a No. 3 ranking in the preseason poll.

But despite the ranking, the two might not be partners.

“We actually don’t know if we are even going to play together,” Bolender said. “We need to put out three of our best doubles teams, whether or not Emina and I are together. The coaches haven’t decided yet.”

Splitting the pair would mean losing out on a one-of-a-kind, aggressive strategy that has led to success in college, but also at the professional level as well. The duo won a doubles futures event in Evansville, Ind., this summer.

However, this weekend will allow coach Ronni Bernstein to toy with all types of combinations in order to find that perfect lineup.

Highlighting the competition this weekend is Notre Dame’s Brittany Sanders, who has given Bektas a difficult time in the past. The two players split their matches last year.

But Bektas has a game plan.

“I do need to continue to work on my defensive game and play those longer points,” Bektas said. “But if that’s what I’m doing the whole match, I’m probably going to be in trouble, so using my forehand and getting in is what I need to do.”

This weekend will provide the Wolverines a chance to see new competition and allow them to figure out their team’s identity.

Who will play in each spot? Only time will tell, and this weekend is just the beginning of a long road.

“We’re just excited to play matches again,” Bolender said.