With one upset win already under its belt, the Michigan women’s tennis team sought to capture its second against a potent No. 2 Notre Dame team. A win over the Fighting Irish would add luster to an already great start by the Wolverines.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame was simply too much, overpowering No. 23 Michigan in a 6-1 rout in South Bend.
“As a team, we played our hearts out,” Michigan coach Amanda Augustus said. “We competed really well, but in the end, we just fell short.”
The afternoon started on a sour note as Michigan lost all three double matches and failed to claim the doubles point for the fourth straight match. But, unlike its previous matches, the team was unable to rally from an early deficit to take the match.
Notre Dame kept the pressure on the Wolverines. The Fighting Irish won the first match in singles play to take a commanding 2-0 lead. Sophomore Chisako Sugiyama’s impressive win at No. 2 singles over No. 31 Colleen Riley was Michigan’s lone win (6-4, 6-3).
“I was definitely prepared for the challenge of my opponent and was able to play a very strong match,” Sugiyama said.
Sugiyama’s triumph extended her winning streak to seven in a row and was the biggest of her career in terms of rankings.
Despite apparent troubles in doubles play, Augustus said that as the team moves into the heart of the season, its performance will improve.
“To be successful in doubles, you need to be able to know the chemistry, communication and playing styles of other players and learn to play to each other’s strengths,” Augustus said. “These take time, and we’re not terribly concerned because we have been very close in doubles.”
She was pleased by her team’s performance despite the loss, citing a number of close matches that were decided by a few favorable breaks for the Irish. She was especially impressed by the way her team hit the ball and the toughness it showed when facing adversity. Junior Allie Shafner’s comeback attempt (6-1, 7-6) fell short for Michigan, but it certainly showed the Wolverines’ resolve.
“Notre Dame is a very tough team that plays exceptionally hard at home and really played well today,” Augustus said.
Nevertheless, the loss is a sting to Michigan, who had hoped to begin the season 4-0 with wins over two ranked teams. Instead, Michigan fell to 3-1 on the season, while Notre Dame moved to 6-1. The Wolverines will have to regroup and regain their confidence after a defeat in which just one player won her match.
“We’re defiantly upset by the loss,” Sugiyama said. “It certainly hurts, but we now know how top teams play and that we need to play harder.”
That desire will certainly help the Wolverines down the stretch, as they will look to exact revenge against the Irish, perhaps in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s good to have this (loss) early so it fuels the fire for perhaps a rematch down the road,” Augustus said. “It will help to motivate us in the future.”
The Wolverines will look to rebound on Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn., against Tennessee.