Though Michigan’s athletic squads are typically led by their seniors, freshmen have found their place in each program’s storied lore, from Rick Leach to the Fab Five to Mike Hart. Add Indianapolis native Emina Bektas — the first freshman to hold the No. 1 singles spot on the women’s tennis team during Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein’s tenure — to the list.

Behind Bektas’ charge, the Wolverines blanked Western Michigan on Sunday at the Varsity Tennis Center, winning 7-0 in the first dual match of the season.

To start the match, all three Michigan doubles tandems won their matches, easily clinching the first point of the game. At the No. 1 doubles spot, Bektas and sophomore Brooke Bolender dominated their opponents, winning their set, 8-2.

“We’ve really developed a really good chemistry,” Bektas said. “Day by day, we’ve been getting better. And I think all of our doubles teams have really shown that we have a lot of potential, so it’s really exciting going forward.”

After the doubles matches ended, the Wolverines continued their dominance in singles play, earning all six remaining points in straight sets. Bolender was the first Michigan player off the court after she won her match, 6-0, 6-1. Freshman Kristen Dodge quickly followed suit, winning her match, 6-0, 6-3. Then, Bektas, in her dual-match debut, won her singles match, 6-3, 6-1, gaining the match-clinching fourth point for the Wolverines.

“I was definitely a little bit nervous,” Bektas said. “But later in the match, I started coming in more, I had a higher first-serve percentage, and I really settled down. And I also saw how my teammates were doing which settled me down a little bit, and then I cruised through at the end.”

Added Bernstein: “Whether (Bektas is) a freshman or a senior, she’s been playing really great tennis for us since she stepped on campus in the fall. She’s competing with the best in the country and she’s our top player right now, so (the No. 1 spot) is where she deserves to be.”

Though Bektas ended the match with her win, some Michigan players had not yet finished their matches. Earning the fifth point, senior Michelle Sulahian won her match, 6-1, 6-3. Junior Mimi Nguyen and freshman Sarah Lee earned the final two points of the match by winning their matches, 6-3, 6-2, and 6-2, 6-3, respectively.

“Everybody played well,” Bernstein said. “It was great for our freshmen to get out there for our first dual match playing in front of our home crowd and get some of the jitters out.”

Next Saturday, the Wolverines play Maryland in Ann Arbor. If Michigan prevails, it will take on the winner of a match between Yale and Notre Dame the following day. This Sunday’s decisive victory gives the Wolverines momentum going into next weekend’s play.

“I think (this win) definitely gives us confidence, especially as freshmen — it’s our first dual match,” Bektas said. “We’re gonna come out, have a lot of confidence, really try to play our best.”

Fan support for Michigan in this match certainly wasn’t lacking, as the stands were unusually full for an early-season match.

“We’re a team that’s pretty talented and fun to watch, with Emina with her serves and just a good energy from everybody,” Bernstein said. “Hopefully the fans keep coming out next week as well.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.