The Michigan men’s tennis team controls its fate.
With a nonconference win over No. 27 Rice Sunday, Michigan increased its winning streak to eight. The win propels the 19th-ranked Wolverines into this weekend’s contests with No. 66 Indiana and No. 3 Ohio State.
“This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve been able to control our own destiny,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “The bottom line is if we win both of these matches, we are going to be the Big Ten tournament first seed.”
For the seniors, this season has been especially invigorating.
“The last three years we have been improving, but we were never in the position of having the possibility of winning the Big Ten regular season,” senior co-captain Brian Hung said.
But despite the winning streak, it hasn’t been all positive for the Wolverines. Michigan fell behind early to Rice, losing the doubles point for the third straight match.
“Just because we are winning it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of serious things to improve upon, and most obviously it’s doubles,” Berque said.
Earlier in the season, doubles had been a consistent for the Wolverines, who had won the doubles point for four straight matches until Illinois snapped the streak on April 6.
“I realize we are not going to win every single doubles point, and that would be OK if we lose and get outplayed,” Berque said. “But I think the trend lately is that we are not getting outplayed, we are beating ourselves.”
Despite the poor doubles play, Michigan (7-1 Big Ten, 17-4 overall) rebounded to win a majority of its singles matches. On Sunday, the Wolverines overcame an early 2-1 deficit.
After Ryan Heller conceded the team’s lone singles match of the day, Michigan bounced back to win the final three singles matches, including three-set victories by No. 1 singles Brian Hung and No. 5 Mike Sroczynski.
Sroczynski’s 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 comeback victory sealed the contest for Michigan. Later, Hung finished the day with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 upset over 28th-ranked Ben Harknett.
Even though Michigan has struggled early, Berque has been impressed with his team’s singles play.
“Every time we do that, the guys just get more and more confidence in each other and their games, so if we are ever tested again, they will believe in themselves,” Berque said.
The Wolverines are sure to be tested next weekend when the Hoosiers and Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor.
“I don’t think it’s going to be very hard to motivate them. They know we are playing two very good teams,” Berque said.
Berque hopes to use the difficulty at doubles to continue to motivate his team.
“Now that we have lost three doubles points in a row, it’s time to refocus and get back to doing some of the things that made us have some pretty good doubles teams earlier in the year,” Berque said.
The Wolverines get that chance next weekend, when all that’s at stake is the Big Ten regular season title.