EAST LANSING — Back in the days of Wild West
shootouts, one moment of hesitation would lead to a sharp
shooter’s ultimate demise. For the Michigan men’s
tennis team, the hesitation in East Lansing led to an early exit
from the Big Ten Tournament after a 4-2 loss to Michigan State.

The eighth-seeded Wolverines fiercely battled the ninth-seeded
Spartans and forced four matches into a decisive third set.

“It was windy out here and that means you really have to
concentrate,” Michigan coach Mark Mees said.
“You’ve got to look at the ball, and you’ve got
to play smart.”

Michigan played without its top player, junior Michael Rubin. An
injured rib muscle has plagued Rubin, a member of the 2004 All-Big
Ten Conference team, and he was forced to watch the match from the
bleachers.

The No. 1 doubles pair of Michigan freshmen, Ryan Heller and
Brian Hung, toppled Michigan State’s Andrew Formanczyk and
Chris Mitchell 9-7 in the decisive doubles match, giving Michigan
the early 1-0 lead.

But its lead did not last long, as the Spartans won the No. 4
and No. 6 singles matches. Eric Simonton overwhelmed
Michigan’s David Anving 6-2, 6-3 while Michael Flowers
followed with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Josef Fischer.

Heller had a chance to bring Michigan back from behind in the
second set of his match with Mitchell. After a handful of errors
and a faltering serve, Heller saw his 5-4 lead turn into a 6-7 set
loss in a tie breaker.

“He did get a little tentative when he was serving in the
second set,” Mees said. “He kind of let that set get
away.”

Heller came back for the third set fired up.

“What time is it?” a teammate barked from the
sideline. “Break time,” Heller replied with a
grunt.

Heller went beyond breaking the serve. He won the final set 6-1
with an inspired performance, giving Michigan its second and final
point of the day.

“(Heller) is a fiery guy. He thrives in situations where
it is pretty emotional,” Mees said.

Another valiant attempt at a comeback came from Steve Peretz in
No. 5 singles. After dropping the first set 6-4, Peretz pushed the
match to a decisive third set, but he was unable to overcome
Michigan State’s Joseph McWilliams and lost the third set
6-4.

“You can’t keep thinking about consequences,”
Mees said. “You can’t let stuff creep into your
head.”

Playing in the top spot against Fromanczyk, senior Anthony
Jackson fell behind 4-0 early in the first set before mounting a
comeback to win the second set. The match was eventually abandoned
when the outcome of the meet was determined. The match will likely
mark the end of the Michigan co-captain’s collegiate career,
as the Wolverines are unlikely to receive a bid for the NCAA
Tournament. He finishes with a 72-63 record in four years as a
regular in Mees’ line-up.

“(Anthony’s) been a big part of our program for the
last few years,” Mees said. “We all enjoyed having him
around, and he’s going to be missed.”

The Wolverines await the draw for the NCAA Tournament, which
will be announced tomorrow.

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