The No. 23 Michigan women’s tennis team had plenty of motivation to beat Penn State and Ohio State this weekend.

Will Moeller/Daily
Whitney Taney plays against Michigan State on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009.

With a win Saturday in Columbus, the Wolverines would regain second place in the close Big Ten standings. Furthermore, a win at Penn State would create a cushion between Michigan and the trailing Buckeyes.

But second place wasn’t the main thing on the Wolverines’ mind.

“We don’t even know what the standings are,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “They had a really good crowd (at OSU), and that is what we rose up to, not the standings.”

With all the motivation a team could need, the Wolverines pulled through, sweeping the field with a 5-2 triumph over the Buckeyes on Friday, and a 7-0 romp against the Nittany Lions yesterday in State College. With the commanding wins, Michigan has extended its winning streak over the Buckeyes to six matches, and the streak against Penn State to seven years.

Sophomore Whitney Taney made a ferocious return to the singles lineup on Friday, breezing past her competition at No. 5 singles 6-1, 6-1.

“She played awesome,” Bernstein said. “She was the first one off the singles court.”

Taney had been absent from the singles lineup since the Mar. 22 match against Iowa due to a “nagging” injury, according to Bernstein. With a 12-2 career record in Big Ten competition, Taney’s return was well-timed.

“As far as (Taney’s) groundstrokes, she’s fine,” Bernstein said.

Senior captain Lindsey Howard’s father attended Ohio State, and for her, it gives her “extra incentive” to compete against Michigan’s biggest rival so she can talk trash to her dad, Howard wrote on the Captain’s Log on mgoblue.com.

Yesterday, senior Chisako Sugiyama recorded a routine 6-2, 6-1 victory that was anything but ordinary. Sugiyama provided the highlight of the road trip by tying the all-time singles record, snatching her 100th victory donning the maize and blue.

Sugiyama will certainly not need to look far for extra motivation this coming weekend. At the Varsity Tennis Center on Thursday, Sugiyama will attempt to break the singles victory record in a non-conference test with Texas A&M. On Saturday, the Wolverines will honor their two seniors, Sugiyama and Howard, before a match against Purdue.

“They have been through a lot here,” Bernstein said referring to her two seniors. “They are good representatives of Michigan tennis.”

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