All-Big Ten Conference honors for four straight years.

It is a feat that only one woman in Michigan tennis history, Sarah Cygniak (1994-1997), has been able to accomplish.

This year, senior Michelle DaCosta has a chance to put an exclamation mark on her career by achieving this rare distinction.

“It really means a lot to me,” DaCosta said. “It’s a very prestigious award, and I’m going to have to work very hard to get it.”

Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt thinks that DaCosta — who was named a co-captain of the team along with senior Leanne Rutherford — has a good chance to do it.

“This is a huge challenge for her,” Ritt said. “Playing at No. 1, she has to face the other teams’ best player each match, which is a tremendously tough job. But she has the consistency and the mentality to do it.”

DaCosta has already made a place for herself in the Michigan record books. She is currently 13th in career singles wins with 64, and she could move up that list quickly this season. She is only the second player in Michigan history to qualify for the NCAA tournament in both singles and doubles.

DaCosta is currently ranked No. 44 in the nation in singles and plays with sophomore Kara Delicata on Michigan’s No. 1 doubles team.

“I think that the key is consistency,” DaCosta said. “I just try to play at a consistently high level all season, and I think that will give me the results I want.”

Right now, DaCosta stands to be remembered as one of the best tennis players Michigan has seen. But Ritt thinks that DaCosta can be even better.

“We are going to continue to try to develop her weapons,” Ritt said. “She’s the best defensive player I’ve ever coached, but she’s even better when she’s on the attack and uses her weapons to assault her opponent.”

DaCosta seems to excel in all areas of life. She is an outstanding student who has been named Academic All-Big Ten for two consecutive years, and she is completing a double major in cognitive science and biology, with hopes of entering medical school.

With all her individual accomplishments and challenges, it would be easy for DaCosta to turn her focus inwards. But the subject she enjoys talking about the most is her devotion to the Michigan tennis program.

“The area I think that I’ve changed the most in since I came here is my devotion to the program,” DaCosta said. “I really think of it as an honor to be competing for Michigan, and that’s the main thing I’m trying to instill in the younger players on the team: The devotion to the program as a whole.”

Ritt is continuously impressed by DaCosta and says that coaching DaCosta is just plain fun.

“She is exceptionally focused and mature and was able to make the transition to college very easily,” Ritt said. “She has continued to work hard and improve throughout her years here. There are things she can do on the court that are just impossible for a coach to teach.”

For the past four years, Ritt has not had an exceptional amount of work to do in coaching DaCosta. But her toughest job is yet to come. DaCosta will graduate at the end of this year, leaving a big hole on the team.

“She’s going to be incredibly tough to replace on and off the court,” Ritt said. “It’s asking a lot of somebody for them to come in here and do what Michelle has done for us. It’s unrealistic for us to even think that a freshman will be able to come in and fill her shoes.”

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