When a team adds incoming athletes, inexperience and adaptation to the collegiate level can cause errors early in the season. At the Wolverine Invitational, however, the Michigan women’s tennis team put all concerns to rest — and did so with conviction.
While the competition was non-scoring, the Wolverines didn’t hold back en route to a dominant performance. Over the three day event, Michigan was commanding, only dropping one of 15 singles and one of six doubles matches. Freshman Piper Charney stayed perfect in singles over the weekend, along with senior Jaedan Brown and senior Gala Mesochoritou. Freshman Reese Miller also shined over the course of the weekend, going undefeated in both singles and doubles.
“It’s really good to see the girls come through, because I think it was a pretty good weekend,” Michigan associate head coach Teryn Ashley-Fitch said. “So to see them be able to trust themselves in those big moments is really good.”
The Wolverines’ doubles point exemplified that trust, as both Brown and Charney as well as Miller and sophomore Bailey Sheinin communicated through miscues with ease. Each point seemed to be a reset for the duos, as they continued to support each other through commanding wins over pairs from Arizona State, Princeton, and Yale. Doubles was a sturdy pillar to lean on for Michigan last year, and it looks to be a powerful piece of the puzzle again.
The singles point was also successful for the Wolverines, with Charney and Miller showing what’s to come in the season ahead. Although they play very different styles, both freshmen showed their skillset in convincing wins. Miller found her success through patient backcourt play, baiting her opponents out of position then capitalizing on the open space by putting returns deep in the corner, well out of the reach of her opposition. Charney, playing a net-heavy offensive game, overpowered her opponents with hard overhead smashes and soft drop shots well out of the range of the opposing rackets.
“I think overall, it was a great weekend and we got a lot of good competition,” Ashley-Fitch said. “I think it was good for them (Charney and Miller). They had some pretty good success, so I felt like overall it was a really good weekend.”
In a dominant weekend, Michigan’s weakness came from an uncharacteristically high number of service errors. Double faults gave their opponents free points, while single faults gave free returns that were capitalized on by taking crucial service games. Even though the Wolverines were able to fall back on skills and technique to overcome the self-made deficits, Michigan knows that these errors won’t be so easily resolvable come the regular season.
“I think that we’ve got to do a better job with our service games,” Ashley-Fitch said. “… Just being really deliberate with hitting our serve spots and having a really good plan to start the point because a lot of the times they kind of just roll the serve in and just get ready to work, and I feel like that’s a little bit of an opportunity loss.”
Live reps mean a lot, as the Wolverines’ non-conference schedule is difficult, with meets against No. 9 North Carolina State, No. 15 Florida, and No. 19 Oklahoma in the spring. Their Big Ten play isn’t much easier, with both No. 2 Ohio State and No. 11 Wisconsin being away meets. If it hopes to win the Big Ten regular season title for a second year in a row, these meets will be pivotal.
With their first single-team meet still over four months away, the Wolverines have plenty of time to work out the hiccups in their game. And with seasoned veterans and valuable new additions to the lineup ready to contribute, Michigan has the time and talent to have another successful season.