Another week, more broken records and the beat goes on for the Michigan women’s tennis team.
No. 10 Michigan (7-0 Big Ten, 17-3 overall) defeated Ohio State (3-2, 10-9) and Penn State (0-5, 5-12) over the weekend to continue its complete dominance of conference play this season. And while the team thrived as a whole, two record-breaking performances stole the show.
Senior Denise Muresan won her 104th career singles match after defeating her Penn State opponent 6-2, 6-4, tying her for first on the Michigan career wins list. Asked if the significance of such a special season and career has hit her yet, Muresan admitted that she was reflective.
“I’m really excited that I could (tie the record),” Muresan said Sunday. “I’ve worked really hard these last four years. (Yes, it’s hit me) because it is my senior season, so I think every match it feels like the last time I’m playing at my school … maybe Senior Day there will be some tears.”
Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein did not hold back from praising her star senior who, as she said, has come a long way since her freshman season when nerves showed in her play.
“That’s a lot of wins — 104 wins, in four years and probably a big reason why we’ve been so successful,” Bernstein said. “Obviously, as a coach, I feel pretty good about having (Denise) on our team.”
“It’s a tribute to her; she’s put in a lot of hard work and she deserves all the credit for all those wins.”
No. 7 Muresan continued her impressive stretch of play, having now won seven matches in a row while sporting a perfect 7-0 record against Big Ten competition. However, the 2010 All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year still thinks she and her team can improve.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I feel like I’m peaking right now,” Muresan said. “ As a team too, I feel like we’re playing better and better … Last year, we talked about possibly peaking too early and we’re just going at the right pace this year.”
Freshman Brooke Bolender won her 29th singles match of the season after beating her Ohio State opponent 6-1, 6-2, breaking the single-season wins record for a freshman previously held by current teammate and last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year Mimi Nguyen.
“It’s just special coming in to be able to contribute to the team as much as possible,” Bolender said. “It’s nice as a freshman to be able to play my part and to get some wins for our team.”
Bernstein has certainly had great recruiting success with Nguyen, Bolender and freshman standout No. 69 Sam Critser.
No. 73 Bolender (30-7 overall) is now in fifth place on the Michigan single-season wins list and only four wins from tying the single-season wins record after winning her 12th and 13th straight singles matches this weekend. Bolender maintained her perfect record against Big Ten opponents, as she is now 7-0.
Bolender, who’s experienced so much success in her freshman campaign, has teamed up with Muresan and taken over the No. 1 Michigan doubles seed and formed a national top-10 doubles tandem. Muresan and Bolender both cite chemistry as a major reason why they have had so much success together.
“I think (Denise) and I work well together because we set each other up. She has big ground strokes and I like to play the net,” Bolender said. “On the court, we obviously have great chemistry and off the court she’s awesome. I hang out with her a lot off the court, which I think also helps us on the court because we trust each other.”
Bernstein was eager to discuss her team’s recent success in Big Ten play where the Wolverines have feasted on their conference foes. Michigan has won seven matches in a row, outscored its opponents 46-3, and tallied four straight shut outs before beating Penn State 6-1. They’ve also never trailed at any point in a conference match this season.
“We’re starting to peak,” Bernstein said. “Last year, we were playing really good tennis and then we sort of fell off at the end of the year … This year, we want to be gradually getting better every match and I think we’re doing that … We’re feeling good where we are right now.”
Bernstein is now 35-2 in Big Ten competition in her fourth season as coach. The Wolverines are also a perfect 12-0 at home this season and have won 20 straight home matches dating back to last season.
Perhaps the Wolverines should have a record book just for themselves. The way they are playing, 2011 could be a truly magical season. With the Big Ten Championships just three matches away, there’s at least one Wolverine who is liking the team’s chances.
“I think we’ve had a lot more confidence this year and we have confidence in every single player on the court that they’re going to do their job,” Muresan said. “I believe any player on our team can beat any other Big Ten player.”