After practice one day this week, Michigan women”s tennis coach Bitsy Ritt gathered the players and began to give them instructions of how to play a favorite childhood game of “pickle” or as Jennifer Duprez referred to it as, “stealing bases.” Whatever the name of the jovial game they played, they laughed and enjoyed the team atmosphere.

Not what you would expect from a coach whose team is about to face its first big test and two-match weekend of the season. Do not be confused the team is well-aware of the task it has at hand this weekend.

The Wolverines are going south to face some of the best opponents the SEC has to offer. Kentucky has all eight varsity players back from a team that finished No. 22 in the nation last year, while Tennessee is presently ranked No. 17.

If Michigan is to win, it is going to have to take advantage of the depth that allowed it to win last weekend. The Wolverines got key wins from No. 4 Jennifer Vaughn and No. 5 Kim Plaushines, both of whom are undefeated in singles dual play this season.

Recognizing situations where they can dictate play are important objectives for the Wolverines.

“When you play good players, you can”t play on your heels and wait for them to make a mistake,” Ritt said. “To be a good player you have to step up and take control whether that is using her forehand or going to the net more.”

In addition to attaining preparation for a higher level of play than its previous opponents, Michigan will need to adjust to the fast pace of the southern courts.

“We know the level of play is going to jump up,” Ritt said. “And that to compete, our level a play will have to also jump up, but that is what makes this challanging and exciting for us.”

It”s crucial for Michigan not to underestimate the size of this jump. Kentucky is coming off two consecutive loses despite boasting the No. 10 doubles pair in the country, Carolina Mayorga and Sarah Witten. For its part, Tennesse blanked Purdue 7-0 last weekend.

“I think we are ready for a challange like this,” Michigan senior Szandra Fuzesi said. “We are close and support each other, which is important because everyone is going to have a tough match and we need to fight for every point.”

Fuzesi played a key role in last week”s come-from-behind win over DePaul, winning the deciding match 7-6(3), 6-4, in a weekend where the Wolverines” top two players, Christine Nolan and Kavitha Tipirneni, both lost.

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