Men’s tennis upset in first round of NCAA Tournament

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By Jeff Garland, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 12, 2013

Despite falling two weeks ago in the Big Ten Tournament championship — playing in the title game for the first time in program history — the Michigan men’s tennis team seemed poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

But in the first round of the NCAA Regional in Lexington, Kentucky, No. 41 Virginia Tech thwarted the 23rd-ranked Wolverines’ high aspirations, 4-2.

“I thought this was a disappointing match both in our level of play and our level of competitiveness,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “It was not one of our better efforts and it’s going to sting and it should. We have to remember that going into next year.”

The Wolverines’ regular-season success, particularly in conference play, garnered them the second seed in the four-team regional.

Michigan (11-3 Big Ten, 16-10 overall) was in a comfortable spot to advance, as it has moved on past the first round successfully in five of the last six seasons, including a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2008.

As expected, the Wolverines came out hot early, as the No. 57 tandem of senior Evan King and junior Alex Buzzi combined with a victory from junior duo Barrett Franks and Shaun Bernstein to clinch the doubles point of the dual-match format.

The momentum, however, did not carry over to singles play, as Michigan surprisingly dropped four of its five completed singles matches.

“After winning the doubles point it seemed like we had a false sense of security and didn’t realize that the match was far from over,” Berque said.

King was the lone singles victor for the Wolverines, winning his match 6-4, 1-6, 6-1. His win gave his team a 2-1 lead at the time.

No. 125 sophomore Vlad Stefan was the first to unexpectedly fall for Michigan, losing his match in straight sets, 3-6, 3-6.

In yet another surprise, junior Barrett Franks — who entered play with a career-best dual-match singles record of 17-3 this season — blew an early lead and lost his match at the No. 4 spot, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6.

Next to fall for Michigan was sophomore Alex Petrone, who nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback after trailing late in the second set, but ultimately fell short, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 4-6.

Sophomore Michael Zhu’s 1-6, 4-6 loss clinched a Virginia Tech victory and simultaneously ended Michigan’s 2012-2013 season.

The loss in the tournament doesn’t diminish a strong regular season, though.

“I told them that I thought they’d played well throughout the year and that they were resilient and represented Michigan well,” Berque said.

Though the team’s season ends here, King will compete in the NCAA Individual Championships, to be played in Urbana, Illinois beginning May 22, as the No. 11 seed.