It wasn’t all fun and games in the Sunshine State for the Michigan men’s tennis team over Spring Break. The Wolverines earned a split in their final non-conference matches in Florida, narrowly defeating Miami on Thursday before falling to No. 14 South Florida on Sunday.
Against the Bulls, Michigan got down early, losing the doubles point along with the first two singles points. The Wolverines were then able to rally back to tie the match at three, but could not reverse their early deficit, falling 4-3. The loss ended Michigan’s winning streak at five matches.
“When we lose the doubles point, we have to come out first point of the singles like the match depends on it,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg. “We didn’t do that across the board, and that’s where we really need to learn that when you lose a doubles point on the road, you have to turn it with unbelievable energy from everybody.”
The match ultimately came down to the No. 1 singles competitors. With the score tied 3-3, the Wolverines’ junior Jathan Malik was unable to earn the break point that he needed, falling to the No. 5 singles player in the country, Roberto Cid, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.
The team’s reliance on the junior is nothing new. Michigan boasts a roster that is entirely made up of underclassmen except for juniors Malik, Kevin Wong and Tyler Gardiner, so the experience that Malik does bring has been valuable for the team.
“It’s just experience in these matches,” Steinberg said. “I just don’t think we’ve been there enough to really understand how to win as a team when it’s winning time against some of these great teams.”
Michigan was on the other end of an early run when it faced Miami. The Wolverines shot out to a quick 4-0 lead, winning the doubles point thanks to a strong effort from Malik and Wong in the second doubles slot. The pair came from behind in their match to edge out Miami’s Nile Clark and Piotr Lomacki, 7-5.
The Wolverines went on to win the fifth, sixth and third singles points to finish off the Hurricanes. Miami returned with three straight singles points of its own, but the outcome had already been decided, as Michigan won, 4-3, in its first outdoor match of the season.
“Our tennis program is so far ahead of where a lot of people thought it would be,” Steinberg said. “Obviously we wanted two wins, but I thought we did a really good job, and the Spring Break trip was very successful for us.”
The Wolverines now return to Ann Arbor to prepare for a three-game home stand, hoping to start a new win streak.