That was the Michigan men’s tennis team’s mentality after dropping a sloppy doubles performance to open its first match of the season Sunday against Virginia Tech.
And the Wolverines rebounded in spectacular fashion.
Michigan (1-0 overall) rallied to win five of six singles matches against the Hokies (0-2) to notch its first win of the season, 5-2.
“They just fought their tails off,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “That was the biggest thing. … They didn’t want to let their teammates down.”
Doubles was unusually tough for the Wolverines, who did not lose the doubles point in their final eight meets last season. The No. 1 team struggled and was trounced by the Hokies; The No. 2 team won a competitive match, but then the No. 3 team was outlasted in a tough fight in which neither side could maintain momentum between games.
Doubles put Michigan in an early hole, but things would change in singles. The Wolverines displayed grit throughout the rest of the day, never staying down, never losing focus.
They were motivated.
“I played in doubles, I didn’t play particularly great,” sophomore Jacob Bickersteth said. “I wanted to do better for my team. It was my first career doubles match.”
Bickersteth certainly managed to accomplish that by totally dominating his singles outing.
Bickersteth was the first singles winner of the day. After taking the first five games, he won the No. 3 match in two sets and only lost three games overall. This fast finish gave Michigan a much-needed morale boost.
On the heels of Bickersteth’s win, sophomore Nino Ehrenschneider in the No. 6 match and senior Patrick Maloney in the No. 4 match put up strong performances. As the matches progressed the Wolverines’ sideline energy only grew in intensity, and this energy would fuel a strong comeback from sophomore Gavin Young.
“Our energy was obviously way better than (Virginia Tech’s),” Bickersteth said. “I feel like that got Gavin over the hump.”
After coming out flat and losing the first set of the No. 5 match, 6-1, Young turned it around. He won the second and third sets comfortably to earn Michigan its fourth point to clinch the win.
Even after securing the win, the Wolverines’ fighting spirit continued via junior Ondrej Styler.
The final matchup to finish was Styler’s battle with Hokie Carlo Donato. After winning the first set, Styler was unable to hold Donato down in the second, leading to a tie breaker. In the third set, Styler seemed to regain the upper hand, but then he slipped and injured his leg.
He got back up and continued playing, but soon after the Michigan trainer forced him to take an injury timeout. And yet he persevered, re-entering and playing out the rest of his match, winning 6-4.
“It’s always nice to come back in singles, it’s a big confidence booster,” Steinberg said. “It was a really good match, it was tight. … It’s hard to win four singles against anybody.”
While the Wolverines did dominate the scoreboard, Virginia Tech gave Michigan a tough challenge throughout the afternoon — a challenge it responded to with grit and spirit.