After winning her doubles set 8-6, Michigan women’s tennis senior captain Whitney Taney set a program record with that many wins, just one doubles victory short of triple digits for her career. But that wasn’t enough, as the fourth-ranked Wolverines fell to No. 6 North Carolina, 4-3, on Sunday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Whitney all through the year has been a true competitor,” Michigan coach Ronnie Bernstein said after the match. “We’re confident wherever we put Whitney. She gets off the court quickly, gets us a point and gets us in the match. As a team, we need everyone playing like Whitney — and if we can get that, we’re darn good.”
The match started on a negative note as the first-seeded doubles team of senior Denise Muresan and freshman Brooke Bolender and the third-seeded team of freshman Sam Critser and sophomore Mimi Nguyen failed to reciprocate the success of Taney and her doubles partner, senior Rika Tatsuno. This cost Michigan the doubles point, ultimately determining the outcome of the match.
“The doubles point is big — we really need to get to work on that,” Bernstein said. “We’re definitely going to start practicing (doubles) and we may even switch things around.”
Despite Bernstein’s frustration with doubles, Taney responded in singles play by soundly defeating her opponent in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
The Wolverines and Tar Heels then traded points as Critser and Muresan both lost their matches, while Tatsuno and Bolender gave Michigan two more points.
With the score evened at three points, Mimi Nguyen was the lone Wolverine remaining on the court, hoping to capture a narrow victory. But that hope was for naught when Nguyen, in a valiant effort, lost in three sets (6-4, 5-7, 4-6), giving the overall victory to North Carolina.
“We’re putting ourselves into positions to win matches, and we’re kind of stepping back,” Bernstein said. “That’s the time that you need to step up and really stick it to your opponent. There’s not very much separating us from North Carolina or any of these teams. Even when we lost to Miami, we think we’re as good as them.”
Bernstein clearly doesn’t attribute the Wolverines’ poor play to a lack of talent; she thinks that the team may simply need a change in attitude.
“The better teams make people beat (them) and earn it,” Bernstein said. “We’re not doing that.”
This Friday at the Varsity Tennis Center, Michigan will look to rebound against South Florida, and Bernstein already knows what the team needs to do to bounce back from Sunday’s loss.
“We’re gonna work on doubles in the next couple of days,” Bernstein said. “I don’t know if we’re gonna move around the (doubles) teams. As for singles, I’m gonna move around the lineup a little bit. We’re just gonna go back to the drawing board. (This was) a tough loss and we’re gonna learn from it.”