Kate Fahey sits atop the Michigan women’s tennis all-time wins list. Brienne Minor follows closely behind at spot No. 7. Minor is the only Wolverine in team history to be a four-time ITA All-American, while Fahey owns an impressive three All-America honors. Each player has a set of accomplishments that reads like a phone book, and they earned them simultaneously. The duo even paired up to reach the 2019 NCAA Doubles National Championship.
But now, both are gone.
Recognizing that Fahey and Minor are no longer with the program, Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein doesn’t hide her feelings.
“I’m still crying,” Bernstein said. “It’s rough.”
But no authority can grant Fahey or Minor an additional year of eligibility, so what comes next?
“You need people to step up,” Bernstein answered.
Thankfully for Bernstein and the No. 14 Wolverines, both new and returning players inspired confidence that they will be able to fill the void left by Fahey and Minor with impressive performances against No. 22 Ohio State, No. 25 Tennessee and Texas Christian in the non-scored Michigan Invitational this past weekend.
“You hope your seniors become the leaders and your strongest players,” Bernstein said.
No. 26 senior Giulia Pairone appeared poised to do just that on Sunday as she defeated TCU junior Stevie Kennedy in three sets (5-7, 6-2, 6-0). Pairone admitted that she was trying to force too many shots early on, but she took over the match as it moved to the second set and improved until she looked dominant in the third set.
“I don’t think she played her best in the first set,” Bernstein said. “But that level at the end of the third set was unbelievable, actually.
“She is, I think, one of the best players in college tennis if she can hold that level.”
And while the current class of seniors are the most logical replacements for players like Fahey and Minor, Bernstein also underscores the importance of contributions from underclassmen in such an effort.
That task will fall in part to freshman Nicole Hammond, who went 1-1 on the weekend against more experienced competition. In doing so, she showed an ability to play at a high level and earned praise from her coach.
“I think she’s going to play a lot,” Bernstein said. “She’s very good when she’s good, she plays at a really high level, and I’m looking for her to contribute a lot and have a big impact.”
Bernstein has very similar expectations for Hammond’s fellow freshman, No. 85 Andrea Cerdan. The ability to have these expectations for the freshmen illustrates the general outlook for the team heading into the regular season.
Kate Fahey and Brienne Minor each established a legacy of excellence during their time in Ann Arbor. But, after watching her team perform well in its last non-scored event before the season officially starts, Bernstein believes that her current players can develop and establish their own legacy.
After all, she says, “Kate and Bri weren’t always Kate and Bri.”