Kate Fahey was down, but not out.
Despite dropping the first set, 4-6, to fifth-ranked Gabriela Talaba of Texas Tech on Monday, the junior — ranked No. 33 — came back to take the second set, 6-3, tie the third, 6-6, and eventually prevail in the tiebreaker, 7-2.
But Fahey wasn’t the only member of the Michigan women’s tennis team who staged a comeback at the Michigan Invitational, which ran from Saturday through Monday. Sophomore Chiara Lommer also dropped her first set to a higher-ranked opponent Monday before taking the next two sets to win the match, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.
“Today, we lost a lot of first sets and they came back,” said Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein. “That’s gonna be the key to our year.”
Fahey’s victory capped off a weekend sweep, defeating two ranked opponents in three matches. After a fall season that didn’t live up to her expectations, she took the invitational as an opportunity to prove herself. There, she found success.
“I kinda surprised myself,” Fahey said. “I stepped up more and I think it paid off in the end.”
Two freshmen, Alyvia Jones and Bella Lorenzini, also went three-for-three in their singles matches. Lorenzini didn’t drop a single set during the tournament.
“It’s good to see the young kids being the ones stepping up early,” Bernstein said. “It definitely gives us some depth in the lineup.”
Where the Wolverines didn’t fare so well was in the doubles competition.
Jones and senior Alex Najarian were the most successful pairing, taking their set against an Arizona State team, 6-0. But against Texas Tech, Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Arizona State, Michigan won just three of 11 doubles matches.
Perhaps that's the result of junior Brienne Minor — the reigning NCAA singles champion — being unable to play after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason. With that, the Wolverines were forced to try out several different pairings. But Michigan took it as an opportunity to discover whose styles meshed well together.
And while doubles will likely never be a strength for the Wolverines, its collection of talent is such that vast improvement could come from simply finding which pairings work best.
“It’s just a matter of finding who we work well with,” Fahey said. “There are just some things we need to work on a little bit more.”
The tournament served as a good litmus test for where Michigan stands going into the dual meets, which feature a team component not present at the invitationals.
“(This event) kinda looks like a dual match even though it isn’t,” Bernstein said. “It’s just gonna get us ready for Kansas coming next weekend.”
And more than just the wins, the comebacks are a positive sign for the Wolverines going forward.
“Putting ourselves in those situations,” Fahey said, “(I force) myself to go for the shots I wouldn’t usually go for.”
Facing higher-ranked opponents after dropping the first set, Michigan easily could have crumbled. But it didn’t, and that’s why Bernstein sees bigger things coming for a relatively young team.
“We gotta keep working and I think we can get better,” Bernstein said. “I think the girls leave this weekend confident that we can compete with anybody in the country.”