On May 1 the Michigan men’s tennis team earned a bid to the NCAA Championship for the second straight year. Michigan hopes to surpass its finish from last year, when it lost to Arkansas in the first round. This year the 21st-ranked Wolverines look to advance to the NCAA finals in Athens, Georgia.

“I think it’s time to go beyond the first round, and I think it’s time to do some damage in the tournament,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said.

Michigan will face No. 52 Drake Friday in the first round of the tournament.

A win would set up a potential matchup with No. 10 Illinois, which faces No. 54 Western Michigan in the first round.

“With Drake, we don’t know them, and that’s a challenge because we don’t know what we are facing,” Berque said. “From what we know, they are pretty darn good, and we will have our hands full.”

If Michigan beats Drake (23-2 overall), it will know what to expect in the second round. The Wolverines faced both Western Michigan and Illinois earlier in the season.

Michigan defeated Western Michigan 7-0 early in the season. The Wolverines beat Illinois 5-2 in Ann Arbor during conference play, but fell 1-4 to the Fighting Illini last weekend in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

“Basically the first time we played a little better and the second time Illinois played a little bit better,” Berque said. “To me it’s not about Illinois so much, it’s more about preparing ourselves to play and compete our best.”

Said junior Matko Maravic: “If we play Illinois, every single match is going to be very competitive and very close. The match is going to come down to whoever competes the best.”

In both matches against the Illini, Michigan (19-6) lost the doubles point.

“The thing we have worked on the most since the last match is doubles, and if we come out strong and take the doubles point, that could be a big boost of confidence,” Maravic said.

The win against Illinois (18-8) last month built the Wolverines’ confidence, propelling them to a nine-match winning streak. But after losing in the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines are still considered the underdog.

“The last two times we went into the match thinking that we were still the underdogs, but this time I want to go out there thinking that we can beat them,” co-captain Brain Hung said. “All of us believe that we can beat them.”

Wins in the first and second round of the NCAA Championship would not only place Michigan in the round of 16, but also position the Wolverines as one of the best teams in college tennis.

“The players are truly confident that they can compete with the best teams in the country,” Berque said.

But Berque doesn’t only want Michigan to compete with the best teams. He wants it to be among the best teams. The Wolverines will have the opportunity to prove it next weekend.

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