Coming off a disappointing 4-3 loss to No. 22 Alabama, the No. 24 Michigan men’s tennis team had tremendous motivation to succeed on Saturday at the ITA Kick-Off against North Carolina State.
Besides wanting to notch their first win of the season, it was the first time that the Wolverines had hosted the event and they wanted to prove that they could compete with the other teams participating, since the winner would earn a spot in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
“It means a lot. I told the guys yesterday that it took a lot of work to get here,” said Michigan coach Adam Steinberg, “I told them we have to take advantage of it though. We can’t just be happy to be hosting. Our goals are way bigger.”
And take advantage they did. After dropping the first game, the duo of sophomore Mattias Siimar and freshman Andrew Fenty won six straight to win their match 6-1. Freshman Patrick Maloney and senior Myles Schalet also took care of their Wolfpack opponents with relative ease, winning 6-2, and giving the Wolverines the doubles point.
“Doubles was unbelievable,” Steinberg said. “That’s the best I’ve seen us play doubles in a really long time. That was the biggest positive obviously.”
Michigan did not have much difficulty in the singles portion of the day either. While Siimar lost his match, giving NC State its only point, every other Wolverine player either won their match or had the lead when play ended.
Schalet capped off an impressive day with a win in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Senior Gabe Tishman, the only Michigan singles player to not participate in doubles, had possibly the most dominant singles win for the Wolverines, 6-0, 6-4, while junior Connor Johnston won 6-4, 7-5 to give Michigan the deciding point and a 4-1 win.
“Connor at four, and how he’s played the first two matches is a big lift for our team,” Steinberg said. “He didn’t really play singles his first two years and now he’s playing high and he’s doing great.”
Added Fenty: “To come out here and win, and the way we did, with that much intensity and that much passion, it’s kind of sick.”
After their win over the Wolfpack, the Wolverines looked to take the momentum from Saturday’s win into Sunday as they took on No. 11 Baylor for a spot in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in February.
“We’re just trying to use it and ride the wave,” Fenty said. “The way we’re playing right now we feel like we could beat anyone.”
Added Steinberg: “That’s what we practice for. That’s what these guys live for, to go to the National Indoors. It doesn’t get better than that. I know the guys are excited.”
Michigan would go on to lose a hard-fought match 4-1 on Sunday, with their only point coming in doubles.
While the weekend did not end as they would have liked, the Wolverines proved that they can play with anyone.