Facing a break point, Giulia Pairone and Chiara Lommer knew the pressure was on. With the other doubles matches already finished, the two seniors knew the upcoming point would determine whether Michigan or Virginia won the crucial doubles point.
With a large and loud Virginia crowd cheering, and the teams watching from the sidelines, Pairone served and Lommer moved into the net. The return from the Cavaliers’ Chloe Gullickson was quick, and a split second reaction volley from Lommer flew long and wide. The point slipped away, and the Wolverines fought but didn’t quite have the technique or sharpness to finish the job.
This became a common sight as the No. 12 Michigan women’s tennis team (4-4) fell, 4-1, at No. 13 Virginia (7-2).
Lommer recomposed herself and bounced back from her doubles mistake to win her singles match decisively, 6-3, 6-4. But the Wolverines were still in a hole.
They needed to win at least four of the singles matches in order to win the overall match. Even with Lommer’s composure, Michigan started off the singles poorly, as junior Bella Lorenzini was the only other player to win her opening set. Many of the players faced being both a point down in the overall score and a set down in their individual matches.
“We got down after that doubles point.” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “It took us a while in the singles to get ourselves going, and you can’t do that again.”
Faced with a tough match against Virginia’s Natasha Subhash, Pairone was the only player to lose in straight sets 3-6, 2-6.
The other three Wolverines who dropped their first set fought to force a third. Up 5-4 in the second set, freshman Nicole Hammond served her way out of love-30 deficit to win the set, while another freshman, Andrea Cerdan, won her second set with a backhand down the line and a beautiful lob over the top of the Cavaliers’ Amber O’Dell. Junior Alyvia Jones forcefully responded to dropping her first set with a 6-1 second set victory over her opponent.
But these strong reactions simply got them back on level footing, and the Cavaliers had a response of their own. Hammond’s opponent, Rosie Johanson jumped out to a 5-1 lead, killing any momentum Hammond had in a hostile environment.
“We’re getting second sets and starting slow again in the third. You got to understand momentum and keep it going.” Bernstein said. “We’re not doing a good job of that, especially on the road, you’ve got a big crowd against you, and you have to do a better job.”
But demonstrating Michigan’s resilience yet again, Hammond fought back, breaking Johanson twice and giving herself the opportunity to serve to tie the set at 5-5. However, similar to the opening doubles match, Hammond couldn’t finish the job, losing the set and the match on a double fault, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6.
On the other courts, both Jones and Cerdan conceded early breaks to their opponents. Yet, after doing so, both of them kept the pressure on, forcing multiple of their return games to deuce. In the end, Jones could not get the necessary break, losing 3-6, 6-1, 3-6. This clinched the match for Virginia and Cerdan abandoned her match down 2-5.
“We need to do a better job after winning those second sets, hanging in third sets a little more.” Bernstein said. “We’re competing, but we’re not getting everybody on the same day.”