With one final chance to earn a win before the end of the fall season, the Michigan men’s and women’s tennis teams headed to San Diego for the ITA Fall National Championships.
The women’s team struggled in singles play but found more success in doubles, with juniors Jaedan Brown and Kari Miller making the deepest overall run among the Wolverines. They won matches against the BYU, Illinois and Temple doubles teams before falling to the No. 6-ranked team of Savannah Broadus and Janice Tjen from Pepperdine. The match was close until the end, when Brown and Miller lost on a 10-point tiebreaker.
“It’s just one or two points here or there,” Michigan associate head coach Teryn Ashley-Fitch said. “It’s super encouraging to see the level of tennis that I saw out in San Diego from those guys. … They had a great week.”
Brown also competed as an individual, carrying significant momentum after winning the singles championship at the ITA Midwest Regional. She suffered a disappointing loss in the first round, though, falling 6-1, 6-3 to Princeton’s third-ranked Daria Frayman.
On the men’s side, fifth-year senior Andrew Fenty was crucial to the Wolverines’ effort. He reached the quarterfinals before running out of steam against Nishesh Basavareddy, losing 6-3, 3-6, 4-6 against the No. 2-ranked rookie out of Stanford.
“(Andrew) was right there with Nishesh, who won the tournament,” Michigan associate head coach Benjamin Becker said. “He was up a set and had several great chances at the beginning of the second (set) where he maybe could have pulled away. He maybe had a concentration lapse for two, three minutes but against guys like Nishesh it can cost you a set, and it did.”
Nonetheless, Becker is optimistic on Fenty’s prospects for the spring season:
“It was a great fall,” Becker said. “He’s working really hard. He’s been very consistent with his work ethic. It’s been great to see him play some of the best tennis and we just have to keep continuing to work on what we did the whole fall because it’s been working. I feel like he’s been getting better every week and we obviously hope that continues.”
Junior Gavin Young played alongside Fenty in the double’s competition, where the duo grabbed an impressive win, 6-2, 7-6 (5), against the No. 2-ranked pair of Stefan Dostanic and Bradley Frye from USC. Young’s height and coverage at the net, paired with Fenty’s return game, could prove tough to beat come spring season.
Both the men’s and women’s teams now head into the offseason until mid-January, during which NCAA regulations limit the amount of time that coaches can require players to spend practicing. The Wolverines understand the responsibility this places on athletes to continue improving throughout the offseason individually.
“A lot of it is up to them to kind of keep the momentum going,” Ashley-Fitch said. “It’s super critical to keep building off the work that they’ve done this fall, you know, because they’re a pretty hard working group. We’ll have a couple of weeks in January to kind of get back with them before we start competition.”
Ultimately, both teams will look to get out to a fast start once spring season rolls around. The men’s team faces matches against Ohio State and Baylor, while the women’s team will be tested by Oklahoma and Pepperdine. They’ll need to use the offseason as a springboard into these tough schedules, with gritty paths ahead to reach a championship.
“We’re gonna keep building, keep progressing,” Becker said. “We have a very talented team, but we got to keep working and keep playing as a team, which we always do. That’s the Michigan way.”