Playing 1-on-1 with junior Andrew Mazlin, Michigan coach Bruce Berque barely spoke a full sentence.
Berque preferred to shout orders across the court: “Follow through. Turn your shoulders. Finish it. Swing through it.”
Berque’s commanding voice is all that resonated through the Varsity Tennis Center – that, and the occasional squeaking of sneakers as a Wolverine raced to keep a ball in play.
But the Wolverines don’t mind working on what Bruce Berque calls his “tight ship.”
They see results. And they hope to see results this weekend with No. 17 Pepperdine and No. 1 Virginia coming to Ann Arbor.
“This is my fourth season,” Berque said. “The guys who have been in the program for a couple years now (are) starting to get it. They are seeing the benefit of some of the things we preach because each year we’ve been doing better and better.”
When he arrived four years ago, the Wolverines were coming off a 9-12 season. In Berque’s first season, Michigan went 15-10, its best record in six years.
The following year, Michigan secured an NCAA Tournament bid.
Berque’s third season was Michigan’s most successful since 1988. The Wolverines finished 20-7.
Michigan’s success is at least because of the way Berque runs his team. From practicing perfect form to making smart shot choices, the players understand the importance of details.
“I recognize that this isn’t life or death,” Berque said. “It’s just tennis. It’s a sport and it’s something that they should enjoy. But at the same time, it’s really important that we try to take care of details and they get used to not doing anything sloppy.”
The practices leading up to this weekend’s first home matches were the same.
After Berque warmed his players up, he called the No. 21 Michigan team together.
The coach stressed the importance of competitiveness, challenging his players to match their opponents’ level of play. Berque warned his team that they would need to be prepared for the opposing teams’ aggression.
Berque’s lessons will be put to the test against top competition this weekend.
He has set a simple goal for the Wolverines. All he expects, win or lose, is that the team plays with energy.
Berque may not be concerned about specific strategies geared toward this weekend’s competition, but he does know from experience how much impact a crowd can have.
Last season, Berque said, he specifically remembers how the crowd “electrified” Steve Peretz in the match to clinch a regular season victory against Illinois.
So, while at practice the only sounds Berque allows are shoes sliding across a court, he hopes the fans will bring a lot of noise this weekend.