Andrea Cerdan was ready to deliver the dagger.

The freshman had taken the upper hand against Valeriya Zeleva, forcing her into the alley to respond to an aggressive series of groundstrokes. All Zeleva could manage was a desperation heave, sending the ball in a slow, looping trajectory over the net, while Cerdan positioned herself for a volley to put the point out of reach.

She fired it into the net.

The dagger would have to wait.

The No. 15 Michigan women’s tennis team (2-0) played host to the International Tennis Association kick-off meet at the Varsity Tennis Center this weekend, and after a 4-2 semifinal win over Mississippi (3-1) and a 4-2 defeat of No. 12 Central Florida (2-1), the Wolverines clinched a berth to the ITA National Team indoor championship. It did not go without a hitch.

“We’re going to have a lot of opportunities there to play the top teams in the country,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “That was our goal, so (we’re) happy to get through this weekend.”

Against the Rebels, the Wolverines jumped out to an early lead thanks to their sweep of the doubles matches; in the singles, the only major casualty was No. 1 singles player and No. 26 overall, senior Guilia Pairone, who fell in straight sets.

“For our first match, to play a quality team like that and get through … that was a big team win,” Bernstein said.

On Sunday, Michigan found itself on the other side of a doubles sweep. Two of Central Florida’s pairs ranked inside the top 15 nationally, compared to three unranked Wolverine duos. Michigan kept all three matches close with competence on the baseline, but Central Florida used its subtlety at the net to create winners and end rallies in its favor; the same could not be said for the Wolverines.

“We’re staying back more, and they’re hitting it big,” Bernstein said, “so it’s hard to come in unless it’s the right ball, so maybe they just weren’t picking the right ball.”

Six points were still available at the start of singles play, and both squads claimed one after early straight-set victories. Meanwhile, Pairone and the KnightsEvgeniya Levashova took their time, exchanging long rallies and dueling deep into each game. Levashova grabbed a slight advantage when she went up a break, riding it to a first set victory. 

On the other side of the complex, Cerdan dropped a tightly-contested first set, 7-5.

“The first set, I was going a little bit too much, being a little overly aggressive.” Cerdan said. “I was too focused on holding back or being too aggressive; I couldn’t find the in-between. That also led to me getting frustrated.”

Cerdan found the balance deep in the second set. Moments after the unforced error on the volley, she faced a similar opportunity on a set point. Zeleva surrendered another lob, but before she could get back to the middle, Cerdan used an overhead smash — over the net this time — to even the match. She took the third set, 6-1, delivering the final blow.

While Pairone won her second set by that same score, senior Chiara Lommer was frustrated on the adjacent court.

She had made quick work of Nadja Bay Christians in the first set, 6-2, and built a 5-1 lead in the second, but began to hemorrhage points. As the match wore on, she leaned on her forehand more and more, taking inside-out shots instead of the more efficient backhand from the baseline corner. Her groundstrokes barraged the net, leaving ample what-ifs.

“I haven’t been feeling great on the court, so a little bit of belief in closing out the second set was just missing,” Lommer said. “And she also, obviously, didn’t miss a ball anymore.”

Bernstein stopped pacing around the remaining matches and sat by Lommer’s court.

“I knew that I didn’t want her to slip,” Bernstein said. She had a big lead, you want them to get off the court there, get that third point.”

Lommer managed to win the first-to-seven tiebreaker, taking the set, match and even more crucially, the fourth and final point needed for Michigan’s team win. 

“That’s a great win for her,” Bernstein said. “For her to come back in that pressure moment, to come through, I think it’s going to give her a lot of confidence. I’m really proud of how she fought and stuck with it.”

Lommer fell to her knees as Bay Christians’ final ball soared out of bounds. The first to join her in celebration was Pairone, whose match was abandoned in the midst of a neck-and-neck third set. 

Cerdan wasn’t far behind. She had delivered the dagger after all.

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