The Michigan women’s tennis team saw a reversal of fortune this weekend at the Varsity Tennis Center, as it dropped a match to Wisconsin 6-1 on Saturday, then rebounded to win against Minnesota 6-1 yesterday.
The Wolverines (1-3 Big Ten, 5-6 overall) wasted little time in defeating Minnesota, completing their quickest match of the season in less than two and a half hours. The Gophers (0-4, 4-10) won just two sets – their lone victory at No. 1 singles – on their way to remaining the only winless team in Big Ten play.
Michigan’s No. 1 doubles turned out to be the tandem that stole the show. The team of freshmen Michelle DaCosta and Leanne Rutherford dug itself a large hole, allowing Minnesota to create a 6-1 lead. But rather than accept defeat, the freshmen rallied to take back the match.
The Wolverines won the next four games to close the gap to 5-6. In the 12th game, Minnesota attempted a comeback of its own. As a result, the game went back and forth – lasting more than seven minutes – as both teams exchanged advantages.
In the end, Rutherford and DaCosta proved to be too strong and eventually won. The Gopher duo of Valerie Vladea and Michaela Havelkova had given all it had in that game, but quickly dropped the next two to give the Wolverines the 8-6 victory.
“I really think they picked up their energy level and really fought,” Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt said. DaCosta and Rutherford “came out flat, but the key was once they picked up their energy level, and in the end they were fairly aggressive.”
Yesterday was also the fourth match for DaCosta at No. 2 singles this season, the first since the opening match against Western Michigan. Despite facing significantly tougher opponents, DaCosta is comfortable taking on more difficult players.
“I like to compete and wherever I play, I like a challenge,” DaCosta said.
Michigan was faced with a difficult challenge against Wisconsin the day before. Wisconsin (5-0, 10-3) holds a 16-8 all-time record against the Wolverines under Ritt, a former Badger herself. Michigan won just four sets in singles competition, and just one of the three doubles matches.
“(Wisconsin) was a real disappointing performance,” Ritt said of the Wolverines falling to 0-3 in the conference.
One of the few bright spots for Michigan in Saturday’s loss was junior Jen Duprez, who has now become the leader in dual match victories this season with seven. Paired with sophomore Kim Plaushines in their No. 2 doubles victory, Duprez was the lone Wolverine to win her singles match, quickly defeating Wisconsin’s Katie Dougherty 6-2, 6-1.
“I definitely played better (this weekend), and I’ve been feeling better about my game this past week,” Duprez said.
The combination of Plaushines and Duprez won its fourth consecutive doubles match, a commendable streak considering the team has faced three of the top teams in the conference.
“No. 2 doubles is really improving,” Ritt said. “I’m awfully happy that they’re improving after struggling earlier this season.”
After winning its first Big Ten contest of the season at home, Michigan goes back on the road again to Milwaukee, where the Wolverines face nonconference opponents Marquette and Tulane this weekend.