Women’s tennis to play IPFW in the first round of the NCAA tournament

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By Jason Rubinstein, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 8, 2013

Despite winning its fourth consecutive Big Ten regular-season championship, the No. 6 Michigan women’s tennis team will enter the NCAA Tournament with a bitter taste in its mouth. The Wolverines ended their dominant season with a loss in the Big Ten tournament championship — for the ninth-straight time.

Luckily the season doesn’t end there.

Despite the loss, Michigan (10-1 Big Ten, 21-5 overall) secured its 12th-straight NCAA Tournament bid and earned home court advantage for the first and second rounds.

“It’s huge playing at home,” said junior Brooke Bolender. “It’s awesome to be hosting. We are more confortable and have huge crowds, which always gets us energized.”

The Wolverines earned the No. 10 seed, and on May 10th, they’ll play IPFW (23-7) in the first round. Notre Dame (17-8) and NC State (14-9) are also in the same region. The winners of each match will face each other with a Sweet 16 berth on the line. Michigan has made it to the Sweet 16 three years in a row.

The Wolverines will need strong doubles play to move them through the regional rounds. Michigan is 17-0 when winning the doubles point and just 3-5 without it. The Wolverines will look to their No. 6-ranked duo of Bolender and sophomore Emina Bektas to lead the way.

“It’s the way we play,” Bolender said. “We play very aggressive and both move forward as much as we can, which is not what most women teams do. When we do this, we put a lot of pressure on our opponents.”

On top of the doubles, Michigan’s singles lineup has proven to be elite, with five Wolverines earning at least 20 wins. At the top is reliable No. 1 singles player Bektas, who is the reigning two-time Big Ten player of the week.

But perhaps the greatest addition to this year’s squad is freshman Ronit Yurovsky. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year, owns 30 wins, and has eased the pressure for the rest of the team.

Michigan has also shown a lot of depth, which could spell trouble for IPFW. Freshman Amy Zhu has grinded out several three-set matches this year, and earned 20 wins for the Wolverines.

Michigan has been steady throughout the year, and even after historic wins, the team has remained in check. Bolender attributes a lot of the team’s success to its coach, Ronni Bernstein, who recently earned her fourth-straight Big Ten Coach of the Year award.

“First and foremost, she emphasizes playing for the team,” Bolender said. “A lot of coaches make it about them, but she gives us the responsibility. When she gives us the responsibility to motivate ourselves, we really play for the seven people around us. She’s extremely encouraging and always positive.”

It’s clear Michigan has the weapons to succeed and IPFW is the next test.

Bolender said it best: “It’s do or die and we have to leave it all on the court.”