A week after the Michigan women’s tennis team won its first conference match, the Wolverines take a break from the Big Ten by heading to Milwaukee this weekend. Michigan (1-3 Big Ten, 5-6 overall) will face Marquette tomorrow at the Helfaer Tennis Center and Tulane on Sunday in a neutral site matchup.
Michigan faces nonconference opponents in four of its next five matches, then finishes the season against Big Ten foes. Because the conference hasn’t treated the Wolverines kindly thus far, coach Bitsy Ritt feels the break from the Big Ten comes at a good time, and it will help the team into the second half of the season.
“We can build on what we did in our Minnesota match,” Ritt said. “Nonconference matches are much better than taking a week off from competition.”
Ritt feels that those matches are a good time to work on skills in game settings rather than in practice. She feels that working to improve skills in matches will help their chances when returning to conference action. Ritt particularly hopes to increase consistency, as the Wolverines have not won more than two matches in a row this season.
“We’ve been a little inconsistent match-to-match and I hope we can give it two solid efforts (this weekend),” Ritt said.
Inconsistency has been one of the biggest problems facing the Wolverines this season. After all three of its four wins this season, Michigan dropped the following match by scores of 5-2 or worse. Ritt hopes that the Wolverines will come out ready to play against Marquette after their win last Sunday, calling her team’s 6-1 loss to Wisconsin Saturday “one of the weakest performances of the year.”
Michigan’s first test of improving consistency will come against Marquette (2-10), an interesting nonconference opponent. Although it is a member of Conference USA, Marquette has faced seven Big Ten opponents, yet hasn’t faced a foe from Conference USA. The Golden Eagles could pass for a member of the Big Ten and as a result Marquette is a perfect nonconference opponent for Michigan to play in the middle of the season.
In the past, Marquette has been one of the top teams in the region, yet it has struggled mightily this season, as it has just six women on its roster. A difficult schedule this season has been tough on the Golden Eagles, who have already faced three teams in the top 10.
“They’ve done well in the past, but it’s no secret they’ve struggled this year,” Ritt said. “It’s a good match to have on our schedule, as they play so many Big Ten teams.”
Sunday’s matchup with Tulane (9-4) is the first ever meeting between the two schools. Michigan will face a challenge from the Green Wave, one of the top teams in Conference USA. Yet Tulane has struggled lately, dropping three of its last four, and – like Michigan – has only won a single match against teams ranked in the ITA’s top 25 poll.