Over a month ago, the Michigan women”s tennis team started a stretch during which it would face its hardest non-conference opponents of the season, play outdoors for the first time since fall and play two of the best teams in the Big Ten.
Over that stretch, Michigan has lost all six of its matches. The Wolverines were shut out in four of those and won just seven of the 51 matches they have played.
Going into the stretch, coach Bitsy Ritt wanted her team to gain experience by facing tough competition. It would be a chance for the team to learn from top players and increase its learning curve.
Michigan is a young team with three starting freshmen two of whom occupy the top spots in the lineup plus one sophomore in starting singles and another who starts in doubles. The experience gained over that stretch will be invaluable once the Wolverines get into the heart of their Big Ten schedule.
“It has been a tough season,” freshman and No. 1 starter Kavitha Tipirneni said. “We are a young team and we have a lot of talent. We have learned to come together at times like this.”
Coming together now is crucial if they are to stop the losing streak. Over the next week the Wolverines will be facing weaker teams they are expected to beat as well as teams of equal talent.
But Michigan must be careful not to underestimate its opponents. Western Michigan has already beaten a Big Ten team this season in Purdue, which beat Michigan last year.
“We can”t come in with the attitude that Western Michigan is a gimme,” Ritt said. “We are going to be ready to play. They are one of the most talented teams in the MAC and capable of upsetting people.”
The good news for Michigan through this stretch has been the health of the team and their ability to avoid injuries.
The team received stretching help from a track coach which was meant to help loosen up the muscles and prevent muscle strains and pulls which have been disastrous in previous seasons.
In addition to avoiding needless injuries the Wolverines are also getting previously injured players back into the lineup. Sophomore Jen Duprez has played well since coming back from an off-season injury. Thus far, she has just played doubles but has strengthened the pairing, winning one of the two matches she played with partner Jen Vaughn.