Boasting an overall 61-18 record, Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein — the 2010 Big Ten Coach of the Year — has set the bar high for her fourth season at the helm of the No. 8 Michigan women’s tennis team.

In just one year, Michigan’s preseason ranking has gone from No. 19 to No. 8 in Division I.

As a result of having an outstanding 2010 season, “the bar has definitely been raised and the expectations are greater,” freshman Sam Critser said.

Preparing to live up to these expectations, the team is focused and determined to perform well.

“We are pushing ourselves harder,” senior Rika Tatsuno said. “We’re doing everything hard in training and practice.”

But the team has already started off the season well. This past weekend at the Michigan Invitational, senior Denise Muresan, 2010 Big Ten Player of the Year, won the singles’ title.

“We played well against some great teams, but there is still room for improvement,” Bernstein said.

Last season, the team hit a peak in rankings at No. 3 and went into the NCAA Championships in May ranked No. 4. It also defeated some of the top schools in the nation in dual matches, including wins against No. 4 Northwestern and No. 5 Baylor.

In the coming months, the Wolverines will compete in matches against other top-ranked tennis programs like No. 4 Notre Dame in early February and No. 6 North Carolina in March. But the highlight matchup will, once again, be against the Wildcats in late April.

“There’s going to be some good teams this season,” Critser said of this season’s matchups. “Our biggest rivalry is Northwestern, along with Notre Dame.”

In order to succeed as much as they did last year, the Wolverines must use their team chemistry to their advantage.

“Team chemistry is our biggest strength,” Tatsuno said. “We push each other, on and off the court. We have no weaknesses this year.”

When deciding to come to Ann Arbor this year, Critser said that she loved the atmosphere around the tennis program, along with everything the University had to offer. And for Critser, adjusting to Michigan has been so easy because of the team.

The team’s ultimate goal for the season is to make the NCAA tournament and win Big Ten. With how it played last year combined with their determination to win this year, those goals appear to be well within reach.

Taking its first step toward their goal, Michigan will play Western Michigan this Sunday.

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