The No. 25 Michigan men’s tennis team went to Austin this weekend knowing it would have to play its best game in order to beat No. 5 Texas. Afterall, the Longhorns led the Wolverines 12-3 all-time in duel matches.
But the Wolverines were unable to capitalize on important plays, falling to the Longhorns, 6-1.
“We had some matches where we were close on first sets, so we definitely had some opportunities to be hitting a little bit better,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “Texas is a very good team, so we had to play the bigger points a little bit better than we did.”
In singles play, first set matches at No. 3, 4 and 5 all went into a tie-breaking seventh game, resulting in only one victory for the Wolverines.
Texas (15-2) swept all three doubles matches to take the early 1-0 lead, forcing Michigan (4-6) to lose just its second doubles point all season. It was also the second loss for No. 2 doubles pair seniors George Navas and Mike Sroczynski all season.
Singles play did not get much better for the Wolverines, as Sroczynski notched the team’s only win, defeating No. 95 Kellen Damico in a tense match at No. 3, 7-6, 7-6.
At No. 1 singles, it seemed to be a case of déjà vu for 46th-ranked junior and Jason Jung, who lost to No. 7 Dimitar Kutrovsky for the second time this season. The two met at the ITA National Indoors Tournament last November, where Kutrovsky defeated Jung 6-2, 6-4, the same score as their match on Saturday.
Five of Texas’s six singles players are ranked in the top 100 and the Longhorns are Michigan’s highest-ranked opponent of the season thus far.
One of the improvements coach Berque is looking to focus on before the start of Big Ten play next weekend is the team’s competitive edge.
“I think the competitive aspect of having the discipline to play aggressively and play the right way under pressure when it matters the most is what we’re trying to get better with,” Berque said. “I think that we did much better with that last weekend (against then-No 10 California), so we’re making progress, but we have to be able to play tough and stay on our toes when playing under pressure.”
After three consecutive road games, the Wolverines return to the Varsity Tennis Center for their next five matches. Despite having home-court advantage, the team is going to have to step up its game at singles as it head into conference play, starting with in-state rival Michigan State next weekend.
“We definitely prefer to play at home, and that will help a little bit,” Berque said. “But the bottom line is that we have to play well enough.”