The No. 38 Michigan women’s tennis team’s two-match winning streak was upset by Purdue’s 6-1 win on Saturday. Despite the loss at Purdue, Michigan came back strong with a close win against host Illinois.
Yesterday, the Wolverines and the Fighting Illini were tied at three. The tie-breaking point was on the Wolverines’ doubles partners sophomore Elizabeth Exon and junior Debra Streifler. Both teams needed the point from the third doubles match, but the Wolverines (4-3 Big Ten, 9-9 overall) snatched it. The 8-6 victory over the Fighting Illini gave the team the win, 4-3.
“It came down to the last wire,” Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt said. “But (Saturday), after the loss to Purdue, I had a long talk with the team about believing in yourself, maintaining confidence and being tough at crunch time.”
This critical situation came sooner than expected for Exon and Streifler, as their teammates counted on them for a win. Though the duo has won seven of their its games this season, the anticipation of this match was intense.
“It was one of those moments that you live for,” Exon said. “It was exciting and easy to be nervous, but Streifler and I stayed focused.”
Said Streifler: “We had to play for the moment, but, at the same time, we had to play for the team.”
Playing against the Fighting Illini in her home state of Illinois was “nerve-wracking” for Streifler.
“They are really in-your-face,” Strifler said. “They are a very good team, and we lost to them last year. I didn’t want it to happen again.”
During this critical time, Streifler reflected on the team meeting following the Purdue match.
“(The talk) really made me think about my confidence and how I need to play with more guts,” Streifler said. “I knew I needed to put it all out there today, and I did.”
Exon said that they walked away encouraged after the team meeting, and the results showed immediately.
Senior Leanne Rutherford and freshman Allie Shafner won their doubles match with a 6-1, 6-2 score. Streifler won with a score of 6-3, 6-1, and junior Nina Yaftali contributed with a 6-4, 6-3 win. Doubles partners Michelle DaCosta and sophomore Kara Delicata added an easy win in the first doubles match, but Illinois won the second one. Both teams depended on the point from the third doubles match, but the Wolverines got it.
“Each athlete has an individual role to carry out,” Ritt said. “(Yesterday), the match depended on doubles, but it doesn’t always come down to that. The most important thing is that the teams uses their strength and stay confident in their game.”
Next week, Michigan will matchup against Ohio State, in Ann Arbor for its last home match of the season. Though this will be a typical match-up, there will be something unusual about this weekend’s match — it will be held outdoors.
“I’ve been here for four years, and this will be my third time playing outdoors in my collegiate career,” DaCosta said.
Michigan will honor its seniors before the match begins.