It was an epic battle at the Varsity Tennis Center yesterday one that neither Michigan nor Ohio State will forget for a long time.
With the opportunity to turn the season around riding on one shot, Michigan junior Danny McCain stood tall, forcing No. 24 Ohio State”s Adrian Bohane to hit wide on match point to give the Wolverines their biggest victory of the year, 4-3.
The Wolverines (3-3 Big Ten, 9-7 overall) jumped out to an early lead in the match, winning the doubles point by displaying a mental toughness that has not been seen this season. Michigan coach Mark Mees shook up the lineup a little to try to get some life in the doubles, and it paid off.
“In the five matches we won starting off the season, we played good doubles,” Mees said. “Chris Rolf playing in doubles gave us a huge boost.”
With the point on the line at 1-1, the No. 2 doubles team of Henry Beam and McCain won in a tiebreak thriller, 9-8 (4).
But it was the singles play that had the crowd buzzing yesterday. In matches that could only be described as nerve racking, the Wolverines rose, fell and then rose again in “Gladiator” fashion.
Junior Ben Cox and freshman Anthony Jackson both played some of their best tennis of the year, and Michigan jumped out to a 3-1 lead. But Ohio State fought back, as Greg Novak, Chris Shaya, and Beam fell for Michigan, and the match came down to the battle between McCain and Bohane at No. 3 singles.
With the crowd looking on, court five at the Varsity Tennis Center took on the likeness of Centre court at Wimbledon. After winning the hard fought first set 7-5, McCain was serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set but let Bohane get back in it to eventually lose in a tiebreaker, 6-7 (2). After two breaks by McCain in the third set, he found himself up 5-2 again. But in the blink of an eye, it was 5-4, and it looked like it”d be dj vu for McCain.
But in the decisive 10th game, McCain came up with a huge inside-out forehand and followed with a long volley to get within one point of winning it all. Bohane hit the next shot long, and Michigan ended the Buckeyes perfect Big Ten record, capping their own two-win weekend.
“He”s a great fighter, plays with a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of pride,” Mees said. “I felt good about it coming down to McCain.”
In Saturday”s match, the Wolverines beat Penn State 4-3, by winning four of the six singles matches.
But the sweeter victory was undoubtedly Ohio State. With four matches to go, Michigan is starting to build momentum for the stretch run. But no matter who it plays, it will come down to preparation.
“It”s being ready to play every time you step on the court,” Mees said. “That”s when the good things are going to happen.”