Already down a man from a freak twist of fate the day before, the No. 56 Michigan men’s tennis team hoped to turn its bad fortune around against No. 20 Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the luck was with the Irish, who defeated Michigan in a tight battle, 5-2.
“It was a strong competitive effort,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “It was disappointing that we lost. … We really are getting closer. I do feel, each time we play a strong team, we are doing a better job of continuing to compete well and also playing a little better. It was especially significant considering we were without (senior Michael) Rubin.”
In the last five minutes of Friday’s practice, Rubin fell on his left wrist after jumping up for an overhead. The initial diagnosis was a broken wrist, but Berque said that Rubin is going to another doctor on today for a second opinion.
To begin the contest, it looked as though Michigan was going to be able to make up for Rubin’s loss. In the doubles competition, seniors David Anving and Vinny Gossain improved their perfect doubles record (5-0), defeating Notre Dame’s Stephen Bass and Sheeva Parbhu, 8-5, at the No. 3 position. With Michigan senior Josef Fischer and sophomore Ryan Heller dropping their hotly contested match, 9-8(3), the pressure was on the tandem of sophomore Brian Hung and freshman Matko Maravic at No. 1 doubles. The duo was able to pull through with a 9-8(5) victory in a tiebreaker against Notre Dame’s duo of Eric Langenkamp and Brent D’Amico, sealing the doubles point for Michigan.
“We did have a great start in doubles,” Berque said. “Two courts were up by two breaks. We were basically killing them in doubles. But then some of our guys made the mistake of, once getting up in a lead … they lost a little bit of a focus. We ended up being fortunate and won the doubles point. But we need to work on staying focused and disciplined.”
On the singles end, Michigan would not go down without a fight. With five of the six singles matches going to three sets, the difference came down to execution.
At the No. 2 spot, where Rubin had been previously playing, Hung bounced back after dropping the second set to D’Amico. Hung would not lose another game the rest of the match, adding another tally to the Michigan scorecard with his victory, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0.
“(Hung) did a great job at sticking to his game plan and coming to the net,” Berque said. “His strength is at the net. He kept coming in (to the net) even when it wasn’t working. He competed well again.”
But Hung’s win would end up being the lone Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 10-6 overall) singles point. Previously undefeated at his new No. 1 position, Maravic suffered his first loss at this spot. After losing the first set, Maravic retaliated by taking the second set. But the freshman phenom was unable to come back against Bass in the third and lost the match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Notre Dame (14-5) would silence Michigan for the rest of the day, winning three more three-set matches to complete its 5-2 victory.
After playing its last nonconference match of the season, Michigan looks to maintain its undefeated Big Ten record in the remaining seven conference contests of the season.
But it now looks like the Wolverines will be down to just seven players.
Even with this contracted lineup, Berque is pleased with the progress the team is making.
“We are developing an identity of a very competitive team,” Berque said. “We also want to work a little harder to further our skills. We are 3-0 in the Big Ten, and we have a lot of good opportunities to look forward to.”