After finally getting a win last Thursday to snap a season-high six-match losing streak, the Michigan men”s tennis team was looking to get a winning streak going as it traveled to Illinois on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, they ran into a very talented and determined No. 12 Illinois team.
“They”re very, very good,” sophomore Chris Shaya said. “They”re relentless, they keep coming at you, and they don”t stop.”
Michigan (0-3 Big Ten, 6-7 overall) was blanked 7-0, as Illinois (2-0, 9-5) jumped out to an early lead by taking the doubles point then sweeping all but one of the singles matches in straight sets.
Every single big point that came up seemed to go the Fighting Illini”s way, as they proved why they”re the premier team in the Big Ten.
“If you”re going to beat them, you have to match their intensity, but we didn”t,” Shaya said. “I don”t think we came into that match thinking we could win.”
But the final score didn”t indicate how close the match really was. The No. 1 doubles team of Shaya and Henry Beam fell by one break, 8-5, while the No. 3 doubles team of Ben Cox and Anthony Jackson fell in a tiebreaker, 9-8 (2).
“A lot of the matches were closer than the score,” Shaya said. “We had break points all over the place, but didn”t come up with the big points.”
Michigan is trying to shake off the effects of a recent slump, as it has lost seven of its last eight matches, with the only respite coming from a win against Bowling Green.
The slump started Feb. 17 at Northwestern, where the Wolverines let one slip away, and quickly snowballed into close losses against Minnesota and Indiana State. The streak may be attributed to a lack of mental toughness.
“Talent wise we”re right up there with the best, but it”s showing that we”re young,” Shaya said. The losing “is mental. It”s really very little that separates us from winning.”
Now the Wolverines must regroup and look to get some conference wins under their belts.
They must prevent this streak from becoming a season long slide. With a three-match Big Ten homestand coming up, the next two weeks will be crucial to the season, both in terms of the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament.
“Right now we really need to pick it up, especially if we have hopes of making NCAAs,” sophomore Jeremy Edelson said. “We really need to bear down the next two weeks, and the next month.”
The young Wolverines must show that they are starting to mature and are ready to take the next step towards a NCAA tournament berth.
“I really just think we”ve just got to focus more in our matches,” Edelson said. “Every team we play is going to be good, so we”ve got to prove that we want it more.”