Starting on Wednesday, four members of Michigan’s tennis programs will begin a quest for the title of ITA National Fall Champion, an elusive crown that only one Wolverine has ever laid claim to.
Gavin Young, Julia Fliegner, Kari Miller and Jaedan Brown will be Michigan’s delegates at this year’s ITA Fall Nationals. Both the men’s and women’s teams made the NCAA tournament last spring, eventually losing in the quarterfinals to TCU and Georgia, respectively. Seeking redemption, Michigan looks to add to its lone ITA Fall Championship title and bolster its national trophy case this week.
The men’s team sends one representative, senior Gavin Young, who will be playing in the singles draw. Young is ranked No. 31 nationally and holds a career 54-23 overall record. He has already compiled numerous ranked wins this season, holding victories over four top 60-ranked players.
In his first full year as a starter in 2022-23, Young racked up numerous accolades. A doubles All-American and Second-Team All Big Ten player, he has already proven himself on a national level and has shown why he is worthy of his tournament invitation. A powerful server, Young takes advantage of his opponents by rushing the net and feathering volleys.
Young has played on this stage before, losing in the first round of the 2022 ITA Fall Championships to TCU’s then-junior Jake Fearnley in a three-set battle. This time around, Young will kick off the event facing Columbia’s No. 4 Michael Zheng on Wednesday.
“That experience of playing these national events is really important,” Michigan coach Sean Maymi told The Michigan Daily. “There’s always that progression of getting invited to the event and after you go and experience it you leave saying … I actually think I can do better, do well, or win the event.”
Young will look to be the first Michigan player since 1989 to win the ITA Men’s Singles Fall Championship, when Malivai Washington defeated teammate Dan Goldberg in three sets.
An underdog heading into Wednesday’s contest, Young will look to etch his name in the history books.
The women’s team, on the other hand, is sending three players: senior double partners Kari Miller and Jaedan Brown, and junior Julia Fliegner.
Miller will be playing in both the singles and doubles draws, currently ranked 24th in singles. She was named an All-American at the end of last season after a deep run in the NCAA tournament in which she eventually lost in the quarterfinals. As the Wolverines’ only All-American selection in singles, she has a strong advantage over her first-round matchup, unranked Neha Velaga of Princeton.
Ranked fourth nationally, the pair of Miller and Brown were named All-Americans after they also reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA doubles tournament last season, eventually losing to Reese Brantmeier and Elizabeth Scotty of North Carolina. Miller and Brown make for a formidable opponent, with Brown known for her powerful shots and Miller for her precise placement and unshakable demeanor. The pair has been awarded the third overall seed, and face Vanderbilt’s duo of Anessa Lee and Celia-Belle Mohr in the first round.
Fliegner joins Miller in the singles draw, marking her first appearance in the ITA Fall National Championship. Currently the No. 41 ranked singles player, Fliegner has been a key competitor for the Wolverines since her freshman year, and earned All-Big Ten distinctions last season as a sophomore.
Fliegner is known for her fiery play: a passionate and hard-hitting player, she is an intimidating opponent when she’s able to stay focused. Keeping her cool will be paramount in her first-round matchup against No. 26 Connie Ma of Stanford.
If any of the three were to come away with a title, it would represent the women’s program’s first ever crown in the ITA Fall National Championships. With Miller and Brown seeded highly and Fliegner’s ability to catch opponents off guard, this lofty goal is certainly within the range of possibility for the Wolverines.
If Michigan is able to overcome its recent quarterfinal curse behind Young, Fliegner, Miller and Brown, an ITA Fall Championship trophy may make its way to Ann Arbor for the first time in over 30 years.