It may have been Kate Fahey's and Brienne Minor’s Senior Day, but they were not the only players who found the spotlight for the Michigan women’s tennis team (10-4 overall, 6-0 Big Ten) on Friday against Penn State (10-5, 2-2).
While Fahey and Minor put points on the board as usual, leading the Wolverines to a 5-0 win, many younger players decisively won their matches to continue their recent success.
Junior Giulia Pairone’s play especially stood out. She won her doubles match with her freshman partner Anca Craciun 6-1, and won in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0, playing at No. 2 singles. Sophomore Alyvia Jones also won her singles match in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1, playing at No. 6 singles. Additionally, junior Chiara Lommer won 6-1, 6-2 at No. 3 singles, and Craciun won the first set of her match 6-2 at No. 5 singles before it was abandoned.
“It’s just getting out there and getting confidence and playing a lot of matches, just competing,” said Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein. “In tennis, it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior. If you’re good, you’re pretty good. They have played so much and they have played internationally and all throughout the country. So they are very experienced.”
With this win, the Wolverines extended their win streak to five, which spans the entirety of Big Ten play. They have won the first point of each match with their strong doubles play, a trend that continued on Friday, when Fahey and Minor, and Pairone and Craciun, both quickly won their matches to give Michigan an early lead.
“I thought doubles, especially at (No.) 1 and (No.) 2, was really clean,” Bernstein said. “To win that quickly, Penn State came out hitting the ball hard and we were sort of adjusting to that, I’m proud of that.”
The Wolverines took this momentum into singles play. Each singles player won the first set of their match, digging a deep hole that the Nittany Lions ultimately could not climb out of.
“We were up big on every court, and when you have a team on the road seeing that on the scoreboard, it’s like ‘How are we going to get back in this thing,’ ” Bernstein said.
Following some early season struggles against ranked opponents leading into the Big Ten season, Michigan could have easily let this continue into that portion of its schedule. But the Wolverines overcame their early losses and began Big Ten play competing at a high level. It is a level Michigan has successfully maintained throughout the season.
“We played with a lot of confidence today as a team,” Fahey said. “I think we went in knowing we were probably the stronger team and I think we really believed that on the court.”
As the Wolverines finish up their home games and enter the final stretch of their schedule, they have the ability to win their second consecutive Big Ten Tournament and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, that is, if Michigan continues to play as well as it has over the past three weeks.
“We have to keep being tough and competing hard,” Bernstein said. “And being resilient. It’s going to be tough at times. We’re going to have tough moments in matches and it’s going to be how we handle that.”
On Fahey's and Minor’s Senior Day, it was only fitting that the Wolverines recorded a dominant win, as the two leaders have done so many times in their careers.