The Michigan men”s tennis team has been a study in contrasts this season. Riding high after winning their first five meets, the Wolverines felt that they were among the nation”s best.
How quickly things can change.
Michigan now finds itself on a five-meet losing streak going into today”s meet with No. 26 Notre Dame. And for a team trying to snap a losing skid, Notre Dame is not a team that Michigan wants to play.
“It doesn”t get any easier, especially going to play Notre Dame,” junior co-captain Henry Beam said.
Michigan has lost 10 of its last 12 matches against the Fighting Irish, and Notre Dame has gone 7-1 against the Big Ten this season, including wins over Minnesota and Northwestern, two teams the Wolverines have lost to. Also, Notre Dame is currently on a five-match win streak.
There are a variety of reasons for the Wolverines” recent struggles. One of the most obvious weaknesses has been the team”s doubles play. During their win streak, the Wolverines went undefeated in doubles play, but in the last five matches (all losses), the Wolverines have gone 1-4 in doubles play.
In addition, the Wolverines have been unable to get the big points when needed, losing numerous third-set tiebreakers. For the most part, the mental toughness needed to pull out matches has not been there during the streak. But this can be corrected.
“We”ve just got to keep playing hard,” sophomore Chris Rolf said. “It will snap us out of this rut.”
The five-match losing streak is the longest of coach Mark Mees” two- year tenure at Michigan, and it hasn”t been a pleasant ride. It started with a close loss to Northwestern in Evanston, and quickly snowballed with two losses at home and two more losses on the road.
After the most recent loss against Clemson in which Michigan played without Beam, its No. 1 singles player it was a frustrated team that returned to Ann Arbor.
The young Wolverines, without a senior on the team, are still looking for their niche, so to speak. The season has been a study of contrasts thus far, but consistency is around the corner.
“We”re still confident,” Rolf said.