As chants of “Lets Go Blue” echoed through the Varsity Tennis Center during the final points of a doubles match Sunday that spanned almost 90 minutes, all the pressure fell on Michigan juniors Mike Sroczynski and Peter Aarts.
The other courts were empty. And with their teammates looking on from a platform above the court, Aarts and Sroczynski, a duo that had played together in a match just once before, found themselves in the limelight.
In this role, Aarts proved himself a more-than-capable replacement for Sroczynski’s usual partner, Jason Jung.
With a 7-2 tiebreaker victory, Sroczynski and Aarts gave the Wolverines the doubles point, the first point in what would end up a 5-2 win against the Golden Gophers, keeping Michigan undefeated in the Big Ten.
“There were some problems, execution-wise,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “But what I was really happy with was that (Sroczynski and Aarts) didn’t hang their heads. They stayed positive and kept their composure even when they weren’t playing well.”
At a towering six-foot-six, Sroczynski’s monster serve was a catalyst to the success of the inexperienced tandem. Sroczynski had three straight aces when the match was tied, 6-6.
“His serve is big,” Aarts said. “When he hits his spots, there’s really nothing anybody can do.”
But oddly enough, the duo that stole the show in doubles couldn’t muster the same results individually. Sroczynski and Aarts were the only singles losers of the day for the Wolverines.
The remaining Wolverines, however, were on top of their game.
Junior Andrew Mazlin, freshman Chris Madden and sophomore George Navas all won their singles matches in straight sets.
Senior captain Matko Maravic won a marathon match at No. 1 singles, 7-6, 2-6, 1-0 (8), that ended in a super-tiebreaker in which the first player to 10 points wins.
“(Maravic) competes like an absolute animal,” Berque said. “He’s always playing the best player on every team, and that’s not easy to do. Today, he played smart and very competitively.”
Aarts only saw doubles competition because Jung was sidelined with a minor wrist injury. Sroczynski and Jung are the 21st-ranked doubles team in the nation.
Berque said the trainers cleared Jung to play against Minnesota (0-4 Big Ten; 2-15 overall), but after the Wolverines secured the doubles point, he had confidence in his team’s depth to finish out the match without the standout freshman.
As the team beamed for a picture after the game with a diminutive Little Brown Jug replica – reflecting the football tradition – the 14th-ranked Wolverines seemed proud of their success thus far this season, including another 5-2 win over Iowa Friday.
Michigan has won nine straight matches. At 15-2 (6-0 Big Ten), Berque’s squad is off to its best start since 1999.
But they aren’t satisfied yet.
“One of our goals was to be one of the better teams in the Big Ten and be in the hunt for the championship,” Berque said. “We’ve also wanted to be a more significant player on the national level. And I think we’ve done that. But we still have a fair amount of tennis to play this year.”