Wolverines’ hot start seals the deal in final non-conference matchup

By Eli Sparkman, For the Daily
Published March 17, 2013

Fresh off a win against Michigan State in the Big Ten conference opener, Michigan’s match against LSU capped off the non-conference season in winning fashion after the Wolverines dropped their last five.

The Wolverines came out focused, taking the doubles point within the first two matches and then going on to win three out of the first four singles matches. In the end, Michigan’s play in the beginning was too much for the Tigers to overcome.

Senior Evan King—last week’s Big Ten Player of the Week— and junior Alex Buzzi got Michigan off to a hot start by winning the No. 1 doubles match. Shortly after, juniors Barrett Franks and Shaun Bernstein won the No. 3 doubles match and sealed the doubles point for Michigan, giving it a 1-0 lead.

In dual-match play, the three doubles matches are equivalent to one singles match. Along with the six singles matches, this creates a best-of-seven scenario for the meet. The doubles point can often be crucial, as it decides whether a team goes into the singles matches with a lead or playing catch up.

“We always play it as if it’s the most important thing in the world,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “You never know when a 4-3 match is going to come, so you always want to fight like mad for that first doubles point.”

Sophomore Michael Zhu quickly gave the Wolverines a 2-0 lead, strolling through the No. 5 singles match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1.

In the No. 3 singles match, sophomore Alex Petrone put the Wolverines up 3-0 by winning a break in the first set and allowing a mere two games in the second, earning Michigan another straight-set victory. Next, Franks continued the Wolverines’ success by splitting a pair of 6-4 sets with his No. 4 singles opponent and ultimately dominating the third set, 6-1.

Although the Tigers were able to pull off upsets in both the No. 1 and No. 2 singles matches by beating both King and junior Vlad Stefan, Michigan’s early lead of 4-1 proved to be too much for the Tigers to handle.

Sunday was the first time King has lost a dual match all season.

“Not that much went wrong for King,” Burque said. "I have to give most of the credit to his opponent, (Chris Simpson) really was extremely consistent and he made very few errors. I don’t know if King played his best. He probably didn’t, but this player seemed to be a very good match for him.”

With Michigan’s losses in both the No. 1 and No. 2 singles, it was up to the lower end of the lineup to pick things up, and they did just that.

“Michael Zhu, Alex Buzzi and Alex Petrone played really well,” Berque said. “It was really good because one of the things mentioned last night is that we can’t keep on relying on the same couple guys to get the job done every time. (This meet) may have been one of our best team efforts of the year.”