Strong singles and doubles performances against Brown and South Carolina have the No. 16 Michigan women’s tennis team headed back to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship for the fourth consecutive season.
Coming off a dominant showing against Brown on Saturday, the Wolverines found themselves pitted against the Gamecocks on Sunday for a chance to clinch.
The stage was set for the tandem of senior Mimi Nguyen and reigning Big Ten Athlete of the Week, sophomore Sarah Lee. With the teams splitting the other two doubles matches, players became cheerleaders for their respective sides, lining up alongside court two to create an intense, exciting atmosphere that proved advantageous for the home team. Feeding off the energy, Nguyen and Lee rallied from behind to force a tiebreak, eventually winning the eight-game pro-set match, 8-7 (4). The win gave Michigan a one-point advantage in the best-of-seven format heading into singles play.
“Getting that first point on the board completely changed the momentum of the singles,” said junior captain Brooke Bolender.
Bolender also used the momentum to win her individual match, 6-2, 6-2.
In general, singles play proved much less dramatic as Michigan controlled all six matches easily. Sophomore Emina Betkas defeated Jaklin Alawi, 6-3, 6-3, in the number one singles match, forcing South Carolina to retire.
Saturday’s task was even easier for the Wolverines as they quickly dispatched Brown. After clinching the doubles point handily, Michigan set the tempo early in the singles matches, winning a combined 10 of 11 games to start play. From there, it was smooth sailing as the Wolverines won all six singles matches in straight sets to clinch all seven points in the best-of-seven team match.
All players looked good, but 94th-ranked redshirt freshman Amy Zhu looked especially good blanking her opponent, Laura Wiley — who retired with a sore shoulder — 6-0, 3-0. Though her match on Sunday did not finish because South Carolina forfeited, Zhu was still happy.
“As long as our team wins, I’m OK with it,” Zhu said.
Added Michigan coach Ronnie Bernstein: “It was a good effort. The girls really have a lot of pride in the team and they want to do it for each other.”
The ITA National Team Indoor Championship will be played at The Boar’s Head Sports Club (hosted by the University of Virginia) on Feb. 8-11.