After suffering a setback to Notre Dame last week, the Michigan women”s tennis team was quick to pounce on an unsuspecting Illinois-Chicago squad, easily ousting the Flames 7-0 Saturday at the Varsity Tennis Center. The Wolverines (3-1) won all their matches for the first time this season, and Illinois-Chicago (2-4) was outmatched from the beginning.
“We expected to win every match,” Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt said.
The Flames showed early signs of life during doubles play. Although Michigan”s No. 2 and No. 3 pairings had quick victories over Illinois-Chicago, the No. 1 Michigan tandem of freshmen Leanne Rutherford and Michelle DaCosta faced an early challenge, being down 4-1. The Flames won their games convincingly, and it looked like they would be done in a hurry.
“We support each other a lot,” Rutherford said. “I think it helps us (play better when we are down) and we thrive on having tension on us and play through it. ”
After dropping the games early on, DaCosta and Rutherford had enough, as they stormed back into the match. They won the next six games just as quickly as Illinois-Chicago took the lead and went on to win 8-6.
“I feel we have a lot of confidence when I serve because Leanne is great at the net,” DaCosta said of how the tandem relies on both their strengths. “My first serve is pretty tough to return.
“When Leanne is serving, she”s more consistent than me, and we”re able to hold on that too. If I miss two returns, you can count on Leanne to make the next two, and the same goes the other way around as well.”
It was one of the few times the Wolverines faced adversity in the meet, and that adversity was quickly eliminated. At that point, it appeared that the Wolverines were anxious to end the meet quickly. In their respective first sets, four of the six singles players won 6-0 and defeated their opponents in straight sets. DaCosta came the closest to denying her opponent a single point, winning her No. 4 match 6-0, 6-1.
“6-0, 6-0 is pretty difficult, and concentrating that hard is difficult for me,” DaCosta said.
The meet saw the debut of new doubles pairings for Michigan. Junior Jen Duprez and sophomore Kim Plaushines teamed up at No. 2 and won their match 8-1, and No. 3 saw sophomores Kavitha Tipirneni and Christine Nolan breeze past the Flames 8-2.
“I really liked the new doubles combinations,” said Ritt. “We haven”t seen them play together this year, and I was pleased.”
It appeared that this matchup between Illinois-Chicago and Michigan could not have come at a better time, as the Wolverines had dropped their last contest to No. 13 Notre Dame last week, and face No. 6 Tennessee on Thursday. Ritt indicated that this match was a good time to make improvements.
“I think (a match against a team like Illinois-Chicago) helps build confidence and gives them an opportunity to work on things that you want to work on,” Ritt said. “Matches (like these) reveal strengths and weaknesses and allows (the players to adjust accordingly).”