After losing two tough matches on the road last weekend, Michigan women’s tennis coach Bitsy Ritt thought that her team was playing well but just needed to “put it all together.” The Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 8-8 overall) responded this weekend with contributions from everyone and cruised to easy victories over Minnesota (0-4, 5-9) and Iowa (2-1, 8-6).
Michigan used a dominant doubles lineup to jump on Minnesota quickly in yesterday’s 5-2 win. The Wolverines’ 13th-ranked duo of senior co-captain Michelle DaCosta and sophomore Kara Delicata was nearly perfect in its 8-1 victory at No. 1 doubles. Following in the pair’s footsteps, senior co-captain Leanne Rutherford and freshman Allie Shafner overpowered Minnesota’s Ida Malmberg and Lindsay Risebrough, 8-4, at No. 2 doubles. Junior Debra Streifler and sophomore Elizabeth Exon completed the doubles sweep with an 8-4 win at No. 3 doubles.
In the singles action, the Wolverines followed the same script as the doubles. Michigan got out to fast starts and put the match away before the Gophers had a chance to fight back. Junior Nina Yaftali led the quick strike with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Marina Bugaenco at No. 6 singles. Delicata was next in line, taking the No. 3 singles match, 6-4, 6-3. Exon then sealed the overall match in impressive fashion by beating Ida Malmberg, 6-1, 6-0, at the No. 2 singles to give the Wolverines their fourth team point. With the match already decided, the Gophers kept fighting and won the No. 1 and No. 5 singles matches, while Rutherford notched a win at No. 4 singles for Michigan.
“A win like this really is the result of a good team effort,” Ritt said. “I am happy with how we played and with the fact that we were able to win.”
Michigan utilized that same team effort to blow past Iowa on Saturday. The doubles teams experienced a reversal in order but not in results. Exon and Streifler led the way with a quick 8-0 win at No. 3 doubles. Rutherford and Shafner followed with an 8-4 victory at No. 2 doubles while DaCosta and Delicata tacked on an 8-3 win at No. 1 doubles for the Michigan sweep.
Streifler came out strong at No. 5 singles to give Michigan a quick 2-0 lead, but Iowa fought back and won the No. 4 singles match to keep the score interesting at 2-1. The win would be the only point Iowa got all day. Delicata earned a hard-fought 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory at No. 3 singles. After dropping the first set of the No. 2 singles match, Exon answered back with two 6-0 sets of her own to clinch the win for Michigan. DaCosta and Yaftali added wins at No. 1 and No. 6 singles, respectively, to give the Wolverines a 6-1 victory.
“I was especially pleased with how we played against Iowa,” Ritt said. “There were a lot of close matches, but we did a good job of using our weapons when we needed to.”
With just one of its remaining five matches at home, Michigan was aware of the importance of taking advantage of its home court this past weekend.
“We have a tough Big Ten schedule remaining, and it is even tougher because it’s on the road,” Ritt said. “That made it even more critical that we performed well this weekend.”
Streifler’s loss yesterday at No. 5 singles snapped an eight-match winning streak and leaves Yaftali as the only undefeated Wolverine in Big Ten singles play with a record of 5-0.
Michigan heads back on the road next week to face Purdue on Saturday and Illinois on Sunday.