Cheers echoed throughout the Varsity Tennis Center on Saturday, but the support was mostly in favor of the visiting Buckeyes.
Ohio State brought with it a large contingent of family members and supporters from Columbus. The fact that there was not much to cheer about for the host Wolverines did not help much either.
The Buckeyes (3-0 Big Ten, 12-4 overall) rolled over Michigan (0-1, 5-6) 7-0 yesterday, yielding only a single set in the entire dual match.
Michigan coach Mark Mees struggled to find any positives that could come out of the defeat.
“Anytime you get pounded like that – I was not happy,” he said.
Ohio State stormed to the doubles point, sweeping all three matches right out of the gates.
“We’ve come out and played horrible at number one and number three (doubles),” Mees said. “One of the problems is that we don’t have a lot of depth this year.”
One of the few bright spots for the Wolverines was the play of sophomore Mike Rubin, who lost a tough three-set match to Jeremy Wurtzman, currently ranked 17th in the country at No. 1 singles.
Rubin won the first set 6-3, but dropped the next two in a hard-fought match that saw Wurtzman come alive in the final frame. The Buckeyes’ top player was able to hone in on Rubin’s serve as the match progressed, helping him climb back into the match after he dropped the first set.
“In the first set-and-a-half, he didn’t see a break point,” said Rubin of Wurtzman. “As the match wore on, I think (my serve) was one of the things that let him take the first strike, instead of keeping myself in the neutral or the advantage.”
Although impressed with Rubin’s effort, Mees felt as if the sophomore could have ended the match in the second set and avoided a third set entirely.
“Mike was up a set and a break,” Mees said. “He has to be able to close that out. When you get opportunities to step on someone and get control, you have to take advantage of it. If you don’t, you’re in for a dogfight.”
Rubin also viewed the second set as a turning point in the match.
“I thought the second set was pretty tight,” he said. “Mentally, when your opponent thinks there is a possibility of losing (and is able to stay alive), he breathes a sigh of relief and gets a second wind. Once he got up, I tried to take some more chances and made more errors as a result.”
Besides Rubin, sophomore David Anving also played well in a competitive match, losing 3-6, 6-7 (6) to Ohio State’s Conor Casey. Michigan junior Anthony Jackson, who also lost in straight sets, had some incredibly long rallies with Vincent Ng, currently No. 44 in the nation. But once again, Michigan just could not get it done in the end.
“We went through periods today where we played good tennis. But we just didn’t win the big point,” Mees said of his team’s struggles down the stretch.
Despite Saturday’s tough loss, the Wolverines remain confident in their abilities. They will have to be confident in order to succeed in the tough Big Ten, which features the current No. 1 team in the country, Illinois.
“I think I’ve been playing pretty good tennis,” Rubin said. “I’ve had some good wins this year. I think the first two sets showed I could beat a top 10 player in the country, but at the same time, you have to take advantage of opportunities.”