Freshman Gala Mesochoritou started her match on Sunday the same way she has started the last 10: with a perfect singles record on the line.
Mesochoritou brushed the pressure aside en route to a commanding 6-2, 6-2 victory over Michigan State’s Ayshe Can, propelling the No. 13 Michigan women’s tennis team (10-1 overall, 10-0 Big Ten) to a 5-2 victory over the unranked Spartans (4-8, 4-7) at the MSU Outdoor Tennis Courts.
The victory marked the eleventh in a row, both for Mesochoritou and the Wolverines.
“(Mesochoritou) does everything pretty well,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “She can play offense, she can play defense, and it certainly helps to have someone in your lineup that you feel confident is going to get you the point.”
The Wolverines dominated in doubles, as the No. 3 tandem of Mesochoritou and sophomore Andrea Cerdan set the tone with their first match, which ended in a fleeting 6-0 victory over Can and Caroline Szabo.
At No. 1 doubles, Michigan graduate student Chiara Lommer and freshman Jaedan Brown earned a 6-3 victory, pushing their win streak to ten and giving the Wolverines the doubles point.
Closing sets proved vital for Michigan’s singles success against Michigan State, specifically among the younger players.
Freshman Kari Miller raced out to a 5-0 lead at No. 1 singles before getting tangled up in a turbulent match with Mary Lewis. Despite the resurgent play of Lewis, Miller was able to secure a 6-3, 6-4 victory and clinch the match for the Wolverines.
Brown snatched a 6-3 first-set victory over Spartan Maja Pietrowicz at No. 4 singles. A reinvigorated Pietrowicz pushed Brown to the limit, breaking Brown’s serve and knotting the score up at five. However, showing composure beyond her years, Brown fought her way back to a 7-5 victory to finish what she started.
“You just got to play every point,” Bernstein said. “Jaeden won the first set handily and then had a dogfight in the second. You like to see them come through in those close sets and Jaedan has been doing that all year for us.”
Merri Kelly had a starkly different start than her fellow freshman, dropping her first set 6-0 at No. 6 singles against Nicole Stephens. But Kelly came storming back with a 6-2 second-set victory to push the match to a third set.
As the last match of the day, the pressure mounted with all eyes on Kelly. She fought all the way to match point but wasn’t able to capitalize. Her revitalized effort fell just short, as Stephens iced the match with a 7-5 victory in the third to take the match for Michigan State.
While the freshmen were forced to put their resiliency on full display, Lommer used her experience to cruise to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Lauren Lemonds, pushing her to eighth all-time in program wins.
“Chiara is a great competitor for us,” Bernstein said. “She’s going to be a tough out always. I don’t know if she played her best tennis, but she always puts herself in position to win.”
As Lommer continues to pile up wins and Michigan’s freshmen refuse to show growing pains, the team’s mentality remains the same.
“I’m really happy with how the girls are competing and playing for each other,” Bernstein said. “We have a good mix of kids. We’ve got some older ones that have been in the program for a while and the freshman. Everybody is respecting each other and getting it done in practice and in the matches too.”