It was only Mike Sroczynski’s second match at No. 1 singles.
But just as the entire No. 8 Michigan men’s tennis team has done all season, the sophomore embraced the pressure. Sroczynski’s strong performance clinched the Wolverines’ fourth point in a 6-1 victory over Brown Saturday in Providence, R.I.
The road has treated Michigan well over the last two weeks – the Wolverines have won three of four matches in their road stretch.
“It’s a lot tougher to play on the road with the crowd against you,” Sroczynski said. “We have to prepare ourselves better in the future for road matches because traveling really takes a toll on you.”
But Michigan (9-2) showed few signs of fatigue in Providence. The Wolverines swept in singles, and surprisingly the lone blemish of the day against Brown (8-7) came from what had been their most dependable part of their lineup – doubles.
The Wolverines dropped the doubles point for just the second time this season. The loss can be attributed to a lineup change by Michigan coach Bruce Berque that gave sophomore Matt Parks a chance to see court time.
“Brown came out with more intensity than we did in doubles,” Sroczynski said. “We weren’t playing with our partners, but ultimately, our singles made up for it.”
In his singles match, Sroczynski won his first set easily, 6-1. But after dropping the second set, he rebounded to gain a three-set victory, his first career win at the top position.
“It’s pretty clear he is the most improved player on the team from last year to this year,” Berque said. “He overpowers his opponents.”
Sroczynski has been a force in dual-match play the entire season, posting an 8-3 singles record and an 8-1 doubles record with his usual partner, freshman Jason Jung. The duo is now ranked seventh in the nation.
Though he has excelled in both singles and doubles, Sroczynski said he prefers the intensity of having another teammate on the court and the fervor of the crowd in doubles play.
The day before, Sroczynski and Jung’s success capped a doubles sweep against Harvard, 5-2, but usually dominant senior captain Matko Maravic lost his singles match at the No. 1 position.
“We weren’t concerned with Matko’s performance,” Berque said. “He competes at the same level every time, but when he’s playing at number one, he’s always playing against great opponents, no matter the team’s strength.”
The Wolverines jumped 11 spots in last week’s national polls, after their defeat of No. 17 Wake Forest on March 1. The eighth-place ranking is Michigan’s highest since 1989.
Berque called the movement in the rankings a “benchmark” of his team’s improvement over his career at Michigan.
After this weekend’s success against the Ivy League, Michigan should at least maintain its spot in the top 10 when the computer polls are released this week.
“It is only motivation for us,” said Sroczynski. “Now we have a number placed on our backs, and there will be teams gunning for us. We can’t get complacent.”