BY IAN SHEETS
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 10, 2011
COLUMBUS — In weekend play, the No. 23 Michigan men’s tennis team won and lost convincingly by identical 6-1 scores against Penn State and No. 3 Ohio State.
The first match against the Nittany Lions went in the Wolverines' favor with little difficulty. Michigan swept all six singles matches after dropping the doubles to capture the blowout win.
But on Sunday, the Buckeyes were a completely different breed of opponent. Michigan did not match Ohio State's intensity in the Wolverines' 16th-consecutive loss in the rivalry.
Depth proved to be a major factor in the loss for the Wolverines (4-3 Big Ten, 11-8 overall). The Buckeyes used a lineup filled from top to bottom with ranked and experienced players. Michigan's lineup included three freshmen and just two seniors.
“They’re fairly even at the top two players, but I think our guys are both great players too,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “Towards the bottom of their lineup, they’ve got guys that are all ranked nationally, have played big matches and some of them have played high in the lineup.”
Ohio State utilized this experience to its advantage as it cruised to an early lead by taking the doubles point with a score of 8-2 in all three matches. The loss marks the 13th-straight match that the Wolverines have lost the doubles point.
“Pretty disappointing with doubles,” Berque said. “I think Ohio State played really well, but it’s always easier for a team to play really well when you spot them an early break on each court so they had huge momentum early. I was disappointed that our guys weren’t at least able to dig in and hold on to keep the match closer for a while.”
The singles followed in similar fashion, with Ohio State winning the first three singles flights at fourth through sixth singles to effectively end the contest.
But the Wolverines continued to put up an effort. Senior captain Jason Jung clawed back to win in tricky windy conditions after being down a set against Ohio State’s No. 3 Blaz Rola (3-6, 6-1, 6-4).
“I think conditions were a little tougher, which made it a little uneasy for both players,” Jung said. “I’ve played in the wind to know how to handle it. It came down to a number of points in the third set and I took advantage of it. It’s not a surprise for the win, but I think it will be good for future matches.”
Freshman Shaun Bernstein also fought back to force a third-set match tiebreak, but he was unable to eke out the win.
Similarly, sophomore Evan King had a neck-and-neck third set tiebreak encounter against No. 14 Chase Buchanan. The first two sets were back and forth, as both players took early leads only to see them quickly evaporate. The tiebreak followed suit where both players lost service points. But it was Buchanan who eventually came out on top (4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-7)).
“I don’t feel like the gap is that huge that we can’t bridge it within the next couple of years,” Berque said. “That’s the goal, and I think that if we played them again this year we’d be playing to win this match. But they’ve clearly established that they’re the better team right now. We’re working as hard as we can to close that gap and make it be so that Michigan’s the favorite to win the Big Ten.”