Michigan took a step towards its long term goals with a win over Nebraska. José Brenes/Daily. Buy this photo.

With an eight-match winning streak on the line, the No. 5 Michigan men’s tennis team put it on themselves to amplify the atmosphere in front of a limited crowd, compared to the flurry of fans their ranked home match-ups brought in the previous week.

Matched with their first unranked opponent in four matches, the Wolverines (12-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) shut out the Huskers (5-12, 0-1), 4-0.

“I think we set the environment,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “That’s the philosophy of our program … and it’s what inside of us that counts the most.”

Graduate student Nick Beaty clearly echoed that message: “We have to create that (environment) ourselves … even if it has to be done artificially to get guys going.” 

Jumping ahead early, Michigan captured the first six points across its three doubles matches. Still, the Huskers soon rebounded and put the Wolverines in some tricky spots. After forcing senior Patrick Maloney and Beaty — Michigan’s No. 3 doubles pair — to drop a third game, Nebraska gathered a deuce point over senior Andrew Fenty and sophomore Nino Ehrenschneider — a duo ranked No. 6 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

At that point, Fenty and Ehrenschneider had already won five games and needed just one more to give Michigan its first doubles victory. And, after dropping another game, they did just that, beating Nebraska’s No. 1 doubles duo, 6-3.

Even then, junior Ondrej Styler and sophomore Gavin Young — the Wolverines’ No. 2 doubles — double-faulted to drop their match to the Huskers, 6-3.

All eyes shifted to Maloney and Beaty as Michigan vied to extend its six-match winning streak of the double point, and Beaty delivered with four aces in the final game, giving the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.

“I just have a lot of confidence in my serve … and I know that, when the moment requires it, I can just basically trust that I can go after it and get it done,” Beaty said.

Steinberg made slight changes to the singles lineup, opting to place No. 27 Styler at the first spot and moving No. 33 Fenty to the second, while also bringing freshman Will Cooksey back into play for the first time since Jan. 21.

“(Styler and Fenty) are interchangeable,” Steinberg said. “(Cooksey) has been practicing so hard, coming out extra and playing extra sets because he knew he would get a chance.”

Styler needed no easing into Michigan’s No. 1 singles spot, finishing his first and third service games in straight points. Going back-and-forth with Nebraska’s Dario Huber until 2-2, Styler widened the gap to finish his first set, 6-3. 

At the same time, No. 6 Cooksey and No. 4 Young each sported a 3-2 lead, but Fenty fell behind 4-2 to the Huskers’ No. 2 Calvin Mueller. Nonetheless, Fenty won the ensuing four games to win his first set, 6-4. Young also won his first set, 6-4, while Cooksey gave away his, 6-4.

Moving into the second set, Styler gave the Wolverines a 2-0 lead by winning his second set, 6-3. And, as Fenty, sophomore Jacob Bickersteth and Cooksey engaged in back-and-forth scoring affairs, eyes turned to Young and Beaty to clinch a Michigan victory.

Young left no doubts on his court, dominating Nebraska’s Roni Hietaranta, 6-1, in their second set, while Beaty relied on his intelligence to send shots in unreturnable spots for his opponent. In fact, Beaty smashed the final ball that took one bounce into the crowd, defeating his opponent 6-4 in their second set.

Opening Big Ten play with a shutout win was no surprise for the Wolverines, but it’s just their first step towards defending their 2021 Big Ten regular season title.

“We try to look at the Big Ten season as every match is another round toward our goal of winning a regular season championship,” Steinberg said. “We have nine matches, and now we go into the second round.”