The Michigan women’s tennis team probably wishes it could have cashed in its chips and left after squeaking out a win against Wake Forest on Thursday. Instead, Michigan had to hang around until Friday, only to be crushed by a very talented Duke squad.
Coming off their first loss of the season at the hands of Illinois, the sixth-ranked Blue Devils took no mercy on the overmatched Wolverines. Duke started strong and claimed the doubles point by taking all three doubles matches – the onslaught was on. Duke then went on to sweep the six singles matches without dropping a set.
“They were upset about their first loss of the season,” coach Bitsy Ritt said about the Blue Devils’ loss to Illinois a week earlier. “They lost their No. 1 ranking and were happy to be home in Durham. They are a very experienced team, and it really showed against us.”
The day before, Michigan eeked out a close match against a struggling Wake Forest team. After dropping the doubles point, Michigan took four of the singles matches for a close 4-3 match victory. Chrissie Nolan and Leanne Rutherford took their matches in straight sets to help the Wolverines gain some momentum. The win for Rutherford was her 10th in a row.
“Leanne has been so solid,” Ritt said. “She’s had a lot of close matches and has found a way to win them by exploiting weaknesses in her opponents. She’s a hard worker and has a great attitude.”
With the match tied 2-2, freshman Debra Streifler moved up to the fifth singles spot and responded with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-0 victory, and Junior Kavitha Tiperneni upset No. 65 Katie Martzolf 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 while playing in the second singles spot. These long matches clinched the win for the Wolverines.
“Kavitha really came on after losing that close second set,” Ritt said. “She was aggresive at the right times and played great in the third set.”
Michigan’s win was its first-ever against the Wake Forest program. The Wolverines will finally return for a home match against Ball State on Thursday after playing six straight on the road. They have not played competitively at the Varsity Tennis Center since January 18th.
“We’ve done a good job adjusting to different courts, but it will definitely be good to play at home,” Ritt said.