A week ago, the four seniors on the No. 10 Michigan women’s tennis team thought it would be tough to handle their emotions before their final regular-season match against No. 17 Northwestern.
But they quickly realized that the Big Ten title game is no time to get emotional.
The seniors — half of the team — rounded out their tennis careers by clinching their second consecutive Big Ten Championship after beating the Wildcats, 6-1, on Saturday.
“We set this goal in the beginning of the season,” senior Whitney Taney said. “We knew what we needed to do. We’re really hard working, we have such good team chemistry, and it pays off in the end. We came out on top today.”
The doubles teams of Taney and senior Rika Tatsuno cruised to a 8-2 victory, while senior Denise Muresan and freshman Brooke Boldener won 8-3, clinching the doubles point for the Wolverines.
It was ultimately the seniors who won the match for Michigan (10-0 Big Ten, 20-3 overall).
Following Taney and Tatsuno’s victories in the singles, the Wolverines needed just one more point to secure the championship. Muresan defeated No. 13 Maria Mosolova, 7-5, 6-2, in a hard-fought match.
“It was really cool that (the seniors) were all on the same side and that was the three singles matches that we won to clinch the match,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “For them to be the three kids who got it done today was really special.
“In a way, I think it was meant to happen the way it did.”
To avoid nerves, Bernstein downplayed the importance of the match, and instead had her team prepare as they would for any other game.
But no amount of training can prepare players for when nature decides to take a turn for the worse — conditions at the Varsity Tennis Center became less then ideal when the wind started to pick up in the afternoon.
“I thought everyone did a great job with the wind and the conditions outside,” Taney said. “With the wind, the tennis was kind of a side, and it was more the mental aspect of the game.”
The season has been a series of records for the Wolverines in the Big Ten, having won all 10 doubles points and 25 consecutive matches. Bernstein recognizes the contributions made by the senior class.
“They’ve done so much for our program,” Bernstein said. “Our senior class is just amazing. It’s not even what they do on the court, just the example they set for the younger kids.”
Michigan will host the Big Ten Tournament, and its victory on Saturday will give the Wolverines the No. 1 seed spot next weekend. Despite having reached championship status, Bernstein is still not satisfied.
“We can’t be content with what we did today,” Bernstein said. “We’re going to keep moving, we’re going to keep working. We’re going to enjoy this today, but tomorrow we’re going to get back to work.”