Way back in 1994, Forrest Gump won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl and the Michigan’s women’s tennis team beat Notre Dame – a feat the Wolverines haven’t achieved since.
For the ninth consecutive time, No. 27 Notre Dame (9-7 overall) defeated No. 28 Michigan (2-1 Big Ten, 9-4) 5-2, christening its brand new Courtney Tennis Center on last night.
“It was a good match, very competitive and hard fought,” Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt said. “We just came up a little bit short.”
The teams split the first two doubles matches. Michelle Dacosta and Leanne Rutherford played exceptional in their 8-2 victory at No. 1 doubles. But in the deciding match, Notre Dame captured the doubles point, defeating the Wolverines 9-8 (7-3) at the No. 2 position.
Despite their third doubles loss in four matches, the Wolverines played extremely well against a Notre Dame team that has an overall 8-7 singles record but is 10-5 in doubles play.
“It was some of the best doubles that we’ve played this season,” Ritt said. “We were just a few points away.”
In singles play, Michigan’s Kim Plaushines won for the 10th time in her past 11 matches at No. 4, beating the Irish’s Kristina Stastny 6-3, 6-3, and sophomore Michelle DaCosta collected a victory at the No. 1 position after her opponent withdrew due to injury. Although DaCosta and Plaushines registered Michigan’s only two points on the day, the other matches were decided by tie-breakers.
Michigan’s Leanne Rutherford lost narrowly to Notre Dame’s Katie Cunha 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) at No. 3 singles, and at No. 5 singles, Joanne Musgrove lost in a third set tie-breaker 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 to Notre Dame’s Sarah Jane Connelly.
“Joanne played a very good singles match and played well at the end,” Ritt said. “It just didn’t go her way today.”
Ritt’s teams have beaten the Irish only four times in 17 tries, but she believes this match was one of the hardest fought in recent years.
“The match was the most competitive we’ve played them in the last several years,” Ritt said. “We are gaining ground on them. It was so close today.”
Even though the Wolverines were riding the momentum of a four-match win streak and Notre Dame was playing their fourth match in six days, Michigan’s loss didn’t discourage the team.
“While it could look like a negative on paper, our performance today was a real positive,” Ritt said. “It should give us confidence going into this weekend.”
The Wolverines are anxious to kick off the back stretch of the Big Ten season this weekend, hosting Minnesota and Iowa. They have won 12 consecutive matches at the Varsity Tennis Center dating back to last season.
“We’re so excited about returning to the Tennis Center,” Ritt said. “We’re obviously disappointed to lose today, but we recognize there are only a few things to correct. We’re going to bounce back and get ready for Minnesota.”