The Michigan women’s tennis team finished an even 1-1 for the weekend, facing nationally ranked Big Ten rivals Illinois and Northwestern.
The Wolverines coasted to an easy 6-1 victory on Saturday, in dual-match format, thanks to an impressive doubles performance from seventh-ranked duo Emina Bektas and Brooke Bolender. The twosome overpowered Illinois top pair for its third consecutive doubles win. But it was the dominant singles performances from the whole team that sealed the win on Saturday.
Michigan won the first five singles matches, four in straight sets, before dropping the final match and narrowly losing the shutout. Among the more notable performers was freshman Sarah Lee, who capitalized at the No. 3 spot and quickly trounced Illinois senior Marisa Lambropolous and improved to 16-1 in dual match play.
Additionally, senior Michelle Sulahian locked up her 83rd-career win on Saturday, passing former Michigan players Elizabeth Exon and Elizabeth Cyganiak, leaving her with the sole possession of 10th place on Michigan’s all-time list.
But the magic would not roll over to Sunday, where Michigan fell short against No.14 Northwestern.
Despite yet another impressive victory from the duo of Bektas and Bolender, the Wolverines failed to claim the doubles point and struggled to come from behind.
Junior Mimi Nguyen provided a positive effort by quickly winning at the No. 4 spot, tying the overall match at one point apiece. In addition, Bolender and sophomore Sam Critser managed to pull out wins in two elongated matches in the tiebreakers. But the Wolverines could not capitalize on the momentum shift and narrowly lost the next three singles matches consecutively, sealing the victory for Northwestern.
“The team that steps up and has the most guts wins the match, usually,” Bolender said, “I think they stepped up a little bit more than us today.”
Michigan assistant coach Teryn Ashley-Fitch was in control for the weekend, in the absence of head coach Ronni Bernstein
“Overall I think we fought pretty well,” Ashley-Fitch said. “We just have to clean up a few things.”
Michigan (6-1 Big Ten, 13-5 overall) came into the weekend ranked No.15, with a perfect record in Big Ten play. Much of this success was due to freshman sensation Bektas, the 10th-ranked singles player in the country. Bektas, playing at the No. 1 singles spot, is 25-6 overall and 14-2 in dual matches, not to mention, an impressive doubles record with sophomore partner Brooke Bolender.
Michigan has also relied on strong play in the middle spots from Lee, Nguyen and Critser. This trio has combined for a 29-6 record at the No. 3 and No. 4 positions, securing the Wolverines’ place atop the Big Ten.
Until the defeat, Michigan had lost only one game at home, and had yet to lose against Big Ten opponents.
“I expect us to bounce back,” Ashley-Fitch said. “We’re going to work hard in practice this week, and have a few things to work on, little changes to make, but I have no doubt that we’ll be back.”
Michigan will travel to face conference rivals Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State, before returning to play Ohio State in the final match of the season.