This was supposed to be an easy win, a comeback after the No. 7 Michigan men’s tennis team’s surging momentum was halted in last Friday’s 4-1 loss at No. 2 Ohio State.
A return to form was the mission, and a forceful win in State College was the target.
The Wolverines delivered, as Michigan (17-3 overall, 7-1 Big Ten) was spectacular on the road at Penn State (12-11, 3-4) Sunday, winning by a score of 7-0 and stopping the NIttany Lions’ two-game win streak.
“We took over their place,” Michigan associate head coach Benjamin Becker said.
Without fail, the Wolverines controlled the tempo for most of the afternoon and felt good about their return to form and ahead of the final home match.
“We came out with a lot of energy and the score reflected that,” Becker said.
The match started out rough for junior Ondrej Styler and freshman Will Cooksey as Penn State caught them by surprise as they were down in their doubles set, 5-2.
However, the veteran duo of senior Patrick Maloney and graduate student Nick Beaty made up for the stumble as they raced out to scorching starts en route to a 6-0 win. In a similarly impressive set, sophomore Nino Ehrenschneider and senior Andrew Fenty took four of the first five and won 6-2 to secure a doubles point for the Wolverines.
Determined performances from Styler and sophomore Gavin Young emerged as one of the highlights of the afternoon’s single play. In back-to-back sets, Young made quick work of his opponent, winning 6-3, 6-3.
Styler was a force to be reckoned with, besting his opponent in a dominant 6-1 opening set before sweeping via a 6-4 second set. Those points put Michigan in a strong position to secure an early win, now up 3-0.
At No. 2 singles, Maloney took care of his opponent with methodical 6-2, 6-4, wins in the opening two sets. The senior leader’s win secured the essential fourth point for Michigan.
“It’s special; to be a part of this group’s growth has been special,” Maloney said.
The final three singles match featured three more wins for the Wolverines as Ehrenschnider, sophomore Jacob Bickersteth and freshman Patorn Hanchaikul all won in straight sets, though Bickersteth needed a 10 point tiebreaker to secure his match.
While the loss to Ohio State was a brief setback, Michigan remains one of the hottest teams in the country, as it won 13 in a row before losing to the second-ranked team in the land.
“It can give you some extra motivation,” Becker said, “an edge even.”
Becker said the “great team effort” reflected that the Wolverines are determined to use that edge heading into the fast-approaching postseason.
“It’s the most important part of the season, and our guys are playing some of their best tennis,” Becker said.