It wasn’t surprising that Michigan women’s tennis team members Joanne Musgrove and Jen Duprez would become co-captains as seniors. But best friends?
“When I first visited Michigan my senior year of high school, I would have never guessed that Jen and Joanne would become best friends,” teammate Chrissie Nolan said. Musgrove is a quieter and more reserved teammate, yet is as much of a leader on the court as any member of the team. Teammates describe Duprez as outgoing, always positive and rarely ever stressed about anything – even on the court.
Duprez’s nerve-racking win over Iowa’s Jennifer Hodgman last Sunday proved to be the difference-maker in Michigan’s (3-2 Big Ten, 10-5 overall) 4-3 victory.
Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt said Duprez’s confidence on Sunday reminded her of an incident when Duprez was a freshman playing in the Big Ten Championships.
“Jen wanted to know the team score, and she realized it was going to come down to her match. She told me, ‘I’m gonna make this girl’s life hell.’ “
And she did.
Duprez not only defeated her at the Big Ten Championships, but also had played her years earlier when she was in middle school.
“I had previously played her way back in the seventh grade. I beat her then, so she hated me,” Duprez said. “This time, it was the last match of her career, and she was winning 3-2 in the final set. I ended up winning 6-4. It was pretty exciting because so many people were cheering, and my mom was there.”
Duprez is from West Hampton, N.Y, where she compiled a 95-5 record in high school, winning her conference championship all four years. Not only excelling on the tennis court during high school, Duprez was the MVP of her track team during her senior year.
Coming to Michigan in 1999, Duprez made an immediate impact at the No. 4 and No. 5 singles positions, compiling an impressive 15-12 record as a freshman.
After the season is over, Duprez wants to teach tennis during the summer and go to law school after taking some time off from academics.
Her roommate and co-captain of the team, Joanne Musgrove, has somewhat different plans after college.
“In June, I’m moving to Switzerland to teach English and hopefully some tennis, too,” said Musgrove.
Being so far away from her teammates will be difficult.
“This year’s team is probably my favorite out of all the ones I have been on,” Musgrove said. “We all get along so well, and we are all really close. It’s been a lot of fun.”
She attributes her most exciting victory of her collegiate career to this year’s team.
Trailing 4-1 in the third set against rival Michigan State, Musgrove said it was the inspiration she received from her teammates that motivated her comeback.
“All of my teammates were hanging over the railing and cheering me on, and just knowing they were behind me really helped,” Musgrove said.
Ritt said that Musgrove’s confidence on and off the court has improved throughout her career by sharing co-captain honors with Duprez for the past two seasons.
“Joanne (Musgrove) is naturally a more quiet leader who leads by example. She has made a change in her leadership style, and she’s been more vocal this year. That comes from her confidence as a co-captain with Jen. Jen is more outspoken and is able to express herself a little better.”
While their personal lives will take them in opposite directions after graduation, they must face an unenviable truth together – that their Michigan tennis careers will be coming to an end.
“I’m so sad,” Musgrove said. “It’s only started to hit me recently. I’m going to miss the game for sure.”
It’s a game both ladies have been playing since childhood.
“This season went by pretty quick,” Duprez echoed. “I am going to miss competing, and most of all, I’m going to miss all of the girls.”
The Wolverines will honor Musgrove and Duprez on Senior Day – their final home match on April 13 against Purdue.
But Musgrove and Duprez still have plenty of tennis to play.
They have a 1-4 combined career singles record against Michigan’s next Big Ten opponent, Indiana (0-4, 8-10).
“Indiana has a remarkable tradition, and we respect what they have accomplished in the past years,” Ritt said. “I think they are much stronger than their record indicates. Now, more than ever, there is parity in the Big Ten.”
And with only five matches remaining, plus the postseason, Musgrove and Duprez will surely embrace the parity that exists between them, mainly the bond of friendship.