If you ask any of the Michigan men’s tennis coaches or players to describe their team this year, you will hear two particular adjectives repeatedly.
“Young and inexperienced” has been the most frequent phrase uttered around the Varsity Tennis Center this year, and one look at the Wolverines’ roster will tell you why. The eight-man team boasts just two seniors and one junior, and none of the five other players saw significant playing time last year.
The depletion of Michigan’s roster is mostly due to the graduation of last year’s three seniors. In addition, Matt Lockin, a standout freshman last year, transferred to Vanderbilt at the end of the 2001-02 season, and junior Brett Baudinet left the team in December to pursue a business opportunity.
“Those kind of things have left us a little thin,” Michigan head coach Mark Mees said. “But we’ve got eight guys who work extremely hard and are thrilled to be here at Michigan.”
Two of those hard workers are brothers Michael and Carey Rubin, a sophomore and freshman, respectively, who are new to the team this year. Michael has been playing at the top of Michigan’s singles lineup so far this season after transferring from Washington.
Before Mees began coaching at Michigan, he met Michael through his work as the director of tennis at the Cleveland Racquet Club in Ohio. The Rubin brothers are from Canton, Ohio.
“I had known the family for a long time,” Mees said. “I worked with Michael for probably three or four years, and I knew Carey through Michael.”
This early connection helped to bring both brothers to Michigan.
“As a freshman, Michael went to Washington, and it was far away from home, and he felt a little uncomfortable there,” Mees said. “So, when he decided to transfer, we recruited him very hard.”
The Rubin brothers have been a valuable addition to the team, as they help fill the void left in last year’s lineup. Last weekend, during the team’s first dual matches of the season, Michael notched victories against Western Michigan and DePaul at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. His singles record for the season is 13-4, the best on the team. The younger Rubin got a chance to compete against DePaul at the No. 6 position and won in straight sets.
“(Michael and Carey) have been a great addition to our team,” Mees said. “I’ve never been around two people who work harder on their tennis.”
As far as adjusting to a new school and new teammates, Mees thinks the brothers have done very well.
“I think we’ve got a great bunch of guys. Everybody gets along well,” Mees said. “When you first start (playing at a new school), that is something that’s nice, to be part of an athletic team. You immediately develop friendships, because there are almost built-in friendships with the guys on the team.”
The Rubin brothers and the rest of the Wolverines will get more time to build camaraderie on their upcoming road trip this weekend. Michigan travels to Oklahoma to take on Tulsa in its third match of the dual meet season.