Michigan falls to Louisville in non-conference finale

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By Nathaniel Clark, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 26, 2014

Wednesday just wasn’t Michigan’s night.

Despite winning the last three singles matches, the Michigan’s men’s tennis team still came up short, losing to Louisville at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center 4-3.

“(Louisville) is a tough place to play,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “We had a lot of guys who were either sick or injured. So while it was a tough day, I’m proud of the fact that they hung in there and made it a close match in the end.”

While the Wolverines (9-8) came out with a lot of energy, it was all for naught as the Cardinals dominated doubles play. In the first match, the Michigan duo of junior Alex Petrone and freshman Tyler Gardiner were defeated by Alex Gornet and Jeffrey Brown, 8-3. The team of senior Shaun Bernstein and freshman Kevin Wong then dropped their match to Albert Wagner and Chris Simich, 8-4.

“It was a tough time,” Berque said. “We got down early and couldn’t recover.”

The third doubles match, which featured the 24th-ranked pair of seniors in Alex Buzzi and Barrett Franks, was abandoned with the score tied at four once the Wolverines were mathematically eliminated from earning the point for the doubles matches.

Louisville continued to outplay Michigan in the singles matches as Petrone fell to Seb Stiefelmeyer, 6-3, 6-0, in the No. 1 position match. The No. 3 match was somewhat closer as Bernstein lost to Alex Gornet, 7-6, 6-0.

Franks started off his match by losing his first set to Michael Lippens, 6-1, then rebounded to make his second set more exciting. But it wasn’t enough as he dropped the set, 7-6, giving Lippens the match win and Louisville the team triumph.

Even though it was too little, too late, the Wolverines bounced back after Franks’ loss. Buzzi got Michigan’s first win by defeating Van Damrongsri in the No. 5 match, 6-4, 6-4. Redshirt junior Justin Rossi followed up Buzzi’s victory by notching his own win over Chris Simich, 7-5, 7-5.

“I am really proud of the way Justin played today,” Berque said. “He’s playing better and better all the time.”

Michigan saved perhaps its best match for last. Junior Vlad Stefan, despite dropping his first set to Albert Wagner, 6-3, came back to take the second and third sets from Wagner, 6-4, 7-6 and get the match win.

“(Vlad) is really starting to gain confidence,” Berque said. “It’s really great to see.”

The match with Louisville concluded the Wolverines’ tough non-conference schedule, which featured matches against seven top-25 opponents. Berque likes how his young players have responded to the challenges put before them and hopes it helps them gain confidence and momentum for Big Ten play like it did last year; when Michigan went 9-2 in the conference.