Michigan suffers 4-3 loss to North Carolina State

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By Brandon Handelsman, For the Daily
Published February 2, 2014

What was shaping up to be an epic comeback soon turned to heartbreak for Michigan.

The Wolverines (3-2) lost 4-3 to North Carolina State (4-1) after back-and-forth play all day that lasted more than three hours. The marathon dual match came down to the No. 1 singles matchup between Michigan junior Vlad Stefan and N.C. State’s Austin Powell.

After being down 5-1 in the third set of the deciding match of the day, Stefan took three consecutive games to rally back to 5-4. Despite his efforts, Stefan simply ran out of steam in his valiant comeback effort, double faulting on his final serve to lose, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, and ultimately give the victory to the Wolfpack.

Following a close loss to N.C. State, frustration and disappointment were the general sentiments at the Varsity Tennis Center on Sunday.

“We weren’t competitive on some of these courts. We just got beat soundly,” said Michigan head coach Bruce Berque. “All the matches need to be competitive because if you can take the doubles game then you should be able to take three of the (singles matches), but we were down too big of a hole on some of the courts. That’s the theme.”

The Wolverines started off strong, as seniors Barrett Franks and Alex Buzzi clinched the doubles point with a clutch 6-5 (7-5) tie-breaking win. The No. 1 doubles pairing remains undefeated this season.

Michigan also earned points from the No. 2 and No. 4 positions with junior Alex Petrone’s three-set win, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, and Buzzi’s dominating performance, 6-1, 6-5. The Wolverines needed only one more victory to beat N.C. State, but could not win half of the singles matches as Franks, junior Michael Zhu and junior Justin Rossi all lost in straight sets.

Even though Michigan could only watch as the Wolfpack celebrated on its home court, Buzzi was still upbeat afterward.

“Personally, I’ve already had a couple losses so it was nice to pick up the ‘W’ today and be able to win doubles too,” Buzzi said. “In terms of the team, Vlad was showing signs of improvement and just barely came up short.”

Berque echoed Buzzi’s sentiments, recognizing the silver lining in a tough loss to a talented team.

“We knew North Carolina State was a good team,” Berque said. “They have four guys that are ranked players and we still feel like we should have been able to play better in singles against them. We’re going to continue to practice at the things that are holding us back.”

One such improvement might be as simple as winning more of the deuce points, which Buzzi said is difficult with the new rule change. This season, there is no additional scoring when a game goes to deuce, making a deuce essentially a sudden-death point. The Wolverines lost these swing deuce points today, which Buzzi understands could have been the difference.

“A game difference and you would have been asking very different questions,” Buzzi said. “I think there are a lot of positives.”