Dolphin-watching, enjoying cruises and snorkeling in the Pacific: The Michigan men’s tennis team has done what may of us hope we’ll do during our lifetimes.
The Wolverines stayed a week in Hawaii.
And oh yeah, they played tennis, too.
But after easily handling a Hawaii squad by claming the first four points of the dual match, No. 22 Michigan traveled through five time zones and found itself in its first even match of the season against No. 28 Texas A&M.
And for the first time this season, the doubles point would determine the outcome of the dual.
Despite claiming nine of 10 doubles points heading into Friday’s match, the Wolverines were unable to take control of this match, dropping their second doubles point in five matches en route to a 4-3 loss.
The No. 3 duo of senior captain Brian Hung and junior captain Matko Maravic grabbed their 10th win of the season, downing Aggies Brett Joelson and Jerry Makowski, 8-6.
But the victory wasn’t enough for Michigan, as sophomore Andrew Mazlin and senior captain Ryan Heller along with the freshmen tandem of George Navas and Mike Sroczynski were unable to execute at key points of the match.
“We just didn’t play our best on (courts) two and three (Mazlin/Heller and Navas/Srozynski, respectfully),” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “We didn’t execute our volleys as well as we’re capable of (at two and three), and that was the difference in the match.”
The Wolverines still had a chance to claim the dual match, rallying back to knot the score at 3-3. With the pressure on during the final set, Hung battled from a break down to tie the set at 4-4. But Aggie Conor Pollock earned a break one game later and held serve for the deciding match (6-2, 3-6, 6-4).
With the win on the line, the defeat hit hard for the senior.
“Brian was pretty down with himself after he lost, and I’ve never seen him that depressed after a loss,” Maravic said. “But I think he competed extremely well, played pretty well and I think we can all learn a lot from this loss.”
Just days before, Hung earned his second Big Ten Athlete of the Week Award after upsetting Notre Dame’s 27th-ranked Sheeva Parbhu in straight sets. The singles victory was the only one Michigan picked up against then-No.9 Notre Dame Feb. 23.
The Wolverines may want to forget about their date in South Bend. After handily earning the doubles point, Michigan lost its advantage. The Fighting Irish won its five singles matches in straight sets. In four of the five losses, a Wolverine was broken twice in the second set.
“Other than (Brian), we were thoroughly outplayed in singles,” Berque said. “I was disappointed because I felt like we were a little better than them in the doubles and they might a little better than us in the singles. But I felt like if we played well, we could win the doubles and win three singles matches. In the end, I think a lot of credit goes to Notre Dame just for playing very well on most of the courts.”
After competing against a better, a worse and equal team in the same week, the Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 8-3 overall) are figuring out where they stand among the nation’s best.
“I think rankings wise, the 20s are just about right,” Maravic said. “But I’m looking a few weeks forward to playing Illinois and Ohio State, those top-ranked teams. I really think that if we put in a good effort, especially playing at home, and we can win one of those two matches, we can move up in the rankings. I really think after a few weeks a of practice, we will be able to beat a top-10 team.”