Michigan senior Denise Muresan and freshman Brooke Bolender ended the Michigan women’s tennis team’s 2011 campaign the only way head coach Ronni Bernstein could ask for — together.
And even in their last defeat, the disappointment couldn’t erase the countless Wolverine triumphs.
Playing in the NCAA Individual Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., the two remaining Michigan competitors were bounced from tournament play in the first two rounds of singles and doubles action.
Muresan’s week started with a victory in the opening round of singles competition, but it didn’t come easily. After dropping the first set to Wake Forest’s Martina Pavelec and trailing 5-4 in the second, the situation seemed as bleak as the weather which caused two delays during the set due to rain.
But for Muresan, the prospect of ending her season without making a statement at the tournament wasn’t one she would even consider.
“I went in there a little nervous, a little tight at the start of the tournament,” Muresan said. “In the third set, I relaxed and played well.”
In the decisive set, Muresan utilized two service breaks to advance to the next round where Chelsey Gullickson of Georgia awaited her.
After grabbing an early break, Muresan then held serve in the first set to get the early advantage. But two 6-3 sets later, Gullickson was through to the round of 16 and Muresan’s singles career as a Wolverine was over.
“For individuals, we wanted to go further than we did,” Muresan said. “We worked really hard but it just didn’t pan out that way. It was a great year regardless.”
But there was little time to reflect for Muresan, as she and Bolender were slated to open up their play in the doubles draw just hours later. One of the faces across the net was familiar to Muresan — Gullickson was again the opponent, this time partnering with fellow Bulldog, Kate Fuller.
The Wolverine duo lost key service games throughout the match, leading to its elimination as Georgia advanced 6-3, 6-2. It was an upsetting way for the pair’s partnership to end, as they had accumulated an impressive 25-7 record this season — a year that neither partner will soon forget.
“We have had great chemistry on the court,” Muresan said. “We play off each other.”
But while Bolender will continue her Michigan career in just a few months when the fall season begins, Muresan has donned Michigan’s maize and blue for the last time of her competitive career. And although she would have enjoyed a better finish down the stretch, she speaks of her time in Ann Arbor with unparalleled enthusiasm.
“I think a lot of things made it such a great experience,” Muresan said. “Our team is really close. Michigan has so much to offer and that’s what made it such a great experience.”
With the 2011 season in the books, the Wolverines hope that next year brings them closer to their lofty goal, including a better showing at NCAAs and a Big Ten Tournament title.