Facing the unknown was certainly not an issue for the Michigan men’s tennis team last week at the Big Ten Championships in Evanston, Ill.
In fact, four days after defeating Wisconsin at the Varsity Tennis Center on April 20, Michigan encountered the Badgers again in the opening round of the season-ending tournament. Although the matchup was the same, the result was not: The Wolverines (3-7 Big Ten, 9-13 overall) fell 4-3 after dropping the doubles point to begin the match.
“We played the match outdoors which was a little bit different from when we played them the week before inside,” Michigan coach Mark Mees said. “One of the things we have been doing for quite a while is that we have a situation where one (doubles) team plays well, one team plays poorly and the other team comes up just a little bit short.”
After surrendering the doubles point, the Wolverines won three of five singles contests, squaring the match at three.
In the deciding singles match, sophomore Vinny Gossain fell to Wisconsin freshman Alex Conti, sealing the victory for the Badgers.
“(Vinny) certainly felt awful after the match, but that was only one of the four points that we lost,” said Mees. “He has nothing to be ashamed of. He played hard and did the best that he could do.”
Michigan struggled with its doubles play throughout the regular season.
“When you consistently go into a match down 1-0 (after losing the doubles point) it is tough to win six singles matches against a comparable team,” Mees said. “That certainly was an issue with us this year. We tried different combinations but we just did not have any consistency in our performance.”
The Wolverines do not expect to send any players to the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships in May, so while their season is essentially over, summer work is just beginning.
“Hopefully all of the guys will go out and play a lot of tournaments,” said Mees. “They will take a little break and then start working out. Hopefully they will go out and play a lot in the summer because that is where you can really make a lot of improvements.”
Mees added that in the fall it is easy to tell which teams worked hard over the summer and which did not.
Michigan will also gain two talented freshmen come fall in Ryan Heller of Chicago and Steve Peretz of New York.
“I think we are going to be significantly better next year,” Mees said. “We’ve got two freshmen that have signed letters of intent that are coming in and will be very good tennis players. I’m excited about (the team). It’s going to be a good group to work with.”