For freshman Brooke Bolender, all she hoped for coming into the season was a chance to contribute for the Michigan women’s tennis team.

She did that. And then some.

Bolender set a new program record for singles victories in a season, with 35, when she toppled Ohio State’s Alexa Palen, 6-1, 6-1, in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

“It was really exciting to be able to do that,” Bolender said. “But the most exciting part was just that I got to contribute … (The record) was exciting, but it was more exciting that we were in the finals of the Big Ten.”

With an impressive win against Palen, Bolender improved her singles record to 35-8 on the season, breaking the previous record of 34 single-season victories held by Sarah Cyganiak, who completed the feat in 1995.

“She’s done incredible things, both in singles and in doubles,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said of Bolender. “You get a freshman in there, and she’s winning that many matches, it just says what a great player she is. We’re fortunate that we’ve got her another three years.”

The Delray Beach, Fla. native knows success. Bolender was a blue-chip recruit who was ranked as the No. 10 senior in the country before attending Michigan.

But there was an adjustment period for the freshman. Bolender quickly realized that collegiate tennis was on a whole different level than juniors.

“There’s definitely a difference,” Bolender said. “I feel that girls fight harder and compete harder in college than in juniors because they’re just not playing for themselves. There are more experienced, older and stronger girls.”

The adjustment period was quickly over.

After starting the season slow and playing mostly No. 3 singles, Bolender moved up to No. 2 singles at the beginning of the Big Ten schedule and didn’t look back. She became the first freshman in the program to break the 30-win plateau and even reached as high as No. 74 in the national rankings.

This week, Bolender was named the ITA Midwest Region Rookie of the Year. Bolender, also the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, became the first Wolverine to win the award since Elizabeth Exon in 2004.

While helping the Wolverines claim their second consecutive Big Ten Championship, Bolender ended the Big Ten schedule undefeated and in the midst of a 16-match winning streak. Her spectacular play earned Bernstein’s praise.

“She’s versatile,” Bernstein said. “She can change things if she needs to during a match. She can hit the ball, she can move forward, she can play defense, she moves extremely well and she’s got a good demeanor on the court.

“She does it all. She works really hard in practice and I think that carries over to her matches. When you work that hard, you’re going to get good results. She’s got a lot of good qualities.”

But even after setting the record for most singles victories in a season, Bolender displays humility and qualities of a good teammate. She understands that there is still room for improvement and recognizes her responsibility to the Wolverines.

“There’s always parts that I can improve,” Bolender said. “Obviously, I want to continue to get better so that hopefully I can keep winning matches for the team. I would like to improve pretty much everything while I’m still here.”

Bernstein offered a different assessment.

“There’s no real weakness in her games,” she said. “It’s just fine-tuning it and making sure she’s doing what makes her the best player. We’ve been trying to make sure she’s hitting the ball and stepping into the court. When she does that, she’s moving forward and she’s that much better of a player.”

Bernstein also suggested that Bolender’s experience playing international events before college has helped her a lot in her first year in college, and gave her an advantage.

“She’s a freshman,” Bernstein said. “But she doesn’t play like a freshman.”

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