Andrew Fenty ripped a forehand to the corner. Matej Vocel’s return barely cleared the net.
The sophomore set himself up perfectly and he knew it. He darted to the net to finish things off, yet the final result wasn’t an emphatic winner, but a volley that sailed wide.
Fenty wasn’t alone in his struggles, as No. 4 Michigan (10-3) fell to Oklahoma State (8-2), 4-0, at Greenwood Tennis Center on Friday.
The Wolverines got off to a shaky start, as their No. 1 doubles tandem of Fenty and junior Mattias Siimar — the No. 2-ranked doubles team in the nation — was quickly handled by Emile Hudd and Vocel, 6-2.
Sophomore Patrick Maloney and junior Harrison Brown were unable to weather the storm, as the Cowboys’ duo of Dominik Kellovsky and Etienne Donnet emerged with a 6-4 victory at No. 3 doubles.
Oklahoma State took the doubles point in dominant fashion, putting Michigan in a rare 1-0 deficit.
“We just didn’t play with enough energy,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “We didn’t serve well, we didn’t return well, it was just our worst doubles performance of the year for sure.”
The Cowboys increased their lead to 2-0 at No. 2 singles, as Hudd handed Siimar his fourth straight singles loss, 6-3, 6-4.
“He just needs to move better on the court,” Steinberg said. “I think when he starts losing his confidence, his feet stop and it hurts him. You go through these stretches as an athlete and he knows how to get out of them. He’s done so well for us and won so many matches. He’ll do it again.”
Freshman Ondrej Styler continued his impressive season for the Wolverines, notching a 7-6 (7-5) victory in a wild first set against Kellovsky at No. 2 singles.
Styler continued to prove his ability to thrive under pressure and conquer the biggest moments, particularly in a tie-breaker that could’ve gone either way.
“He has a lot of confidence,” Steinberg said. “I’m not surprised by anything he does on the court. He has a lot of ability, he’s bought into the team concept and it shows. He’s having a great year.”
Styler’s match was abandoned after senior Nick Beaty found himself on the wrong side of two highly-contested sets against Donnet at No. 5 singles.
Donnet secured a 7-5, 7-5 victory and sealed the 4-0 victory for Oklahoma State.
“He’s worried about the other guys,” Steinberg said. “When (Beaty) sees the team losing, it really affects him and his focus because he’s such an amazing team player. He needs to do a better job with that because we can come back at any moment.”
After a stellar string of matches, a missed volley was just the tip of the iceberg for Fenty’s atypical performance.
Inconsistent serving forced Fenty into an early 4-0 hole in the first set.
Despite a four-game surge to tie things up, a tough 7-5 defeat stripped Fenty of the animate energy that he usually thrives on. Yet nobody is more primed to rebound than Michigan’s No. 1 singles.
“It wasn’t a good day for Andrew, he knows that,” Steinberg said. “It took a lot for him to get up in front of the team (after the match) and take accountability, and that’s all you can ask for.”
While the Wolverines suffered their worst defeat of the season, accountability is the first step to getting back on track.
“We got humbled tonight,” Steinberg said. “It happens. We’ve been having a pretty amazing year and accomplishing some things we probably didn’t expect so early. I’m beyond proud of this team, it’s been a lot of fun.
“Oklahoma State played great. They deserve a lot of credit. They have a great team and we knew it coming in. We had to play really well tonight to win.”