For the young Michigan men’s tennis team, this weekend was a breakthrough.
“We came of age today,” Michigan assistant coach Dan Goldberg said. “We came of age today, bottom line.”
There was no better way to describe the Wolverines’ stunning comeback victory against Tulsa yesterday. After struggling last weekend against Western Michigan and DePaul, Michigan defeated the Golden Hurricane 5-2. The Wolverines notched the win despite losing every doubles match and starting off slowly on the singles side of the match.
“The thing that was amazing (about the win) was that we lost all but one of the first sets in the singles matches,” Goldberg said. “The guys rallied and turned the match completely around.”
The Golden Hurricane entered the match ranked 45th in the nation, boasting the talent of many returning players. Much of Tulsa’s roster is comprised of international athletes – just three of the 10 players on the team are from the United States, and the remaining seven are from countries as far away as Argentina, Sweden and Japan. Michigan, at No. 48, had its hands full to begin the match.
On the doubles side, Michael Rubin and Chris Shaya lost 8-5 playing at the No. 1 spot, and their teammates were also defeated fairly easily. The pair of Chris Rolf and Vinnie Gossain lost an early lead, succumbing 9-7 to Tulsa’s team of Olaf Sjolund, a native of Poland, and Shunsuke Shimizu, of Japan. Anthony Jackson and Josef Fischer also lost, 8-6.
If losing the doubles point wasn’t enough to put Michigan in a hole, the Wolverines seemed to be digging themselves deeper at the start of singles play. Every Michigan player – except Fischer at the No. 5 spot – lost his first set and then rallied for the come-from-behind win. Gossain, at the No. 6 spot, fought off two match points before taking the 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory. Rubin, Michigan’s No. 1 player, also had a tough second set. He faced Tulsa’s Alejandro Tejerina, of Argentina, who is currently ranked 43rd in the country. Rubin won 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.
The Wolverines’ lone singles loss came at the No. 3 spot. Shaya dropped his contest, 6-1, 6-1. But the senior seemed to be in high spirits after the match, despite his disappointing loss.
“I can’t say enough about my teammates right now,” Shaya said, laughing. “I’m beaming. I’m so proud of these guys, even though I got smoked.”
Shaya has plenty to be proud of. Last season, the Wolverines defeated Tulsa in a close 4-3 match at home. This time around, Michigan faced a tough crowd on the road and still managed to drop the Golden Hurricane, despite the depletion of its roster this year.
“It’s always great to get a win, of course we like winning,” Goldberg said. “But it was the way we won today that was a great thing.”