Senior Day for the Michigan men’s tennis team almost turned into a disaster for George Navas and Mike Sroczynski.
After an emotional ceremony before the Wolverines’ eventual 5-2 victory over Purdue, the two seniors lost a heartbreaker at No. 1 doubles, 9-8 (3), surrendering the doubles point to a mediocre conference foe they were heavily favored to beat.
“We came out a bit flat in doubles and weren’t really on top of our game,” Sroczynski said. “We kept it close there for a while, but couldn’t get that one bounce we needed to overcome.”
Things got worse when Sroczynski dropped the first set of his No. 3 singles match, and Navas’s opponent at No. 4 singles took him to a second-set tiebreaker. For a while, it appeared that Navas’s match would come down to a third set.
“I’ll admit it, I was pretty nervous,” Navas said. “I tried not to think about it, but the idea that I would lose on Senior Day to Purdue was hard not to think about.”
Fortunately for the two seniors and the Wolverines (7-1 Big Ten, 11-8 overall), Sroczynski came back and won his match 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, and Navas took care of business in the tiebreaker to win 6-3, 7-6 (5).
“I’m a little disappointed in our performance, especially in doubles,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “We came out a little flat in an area that is usually our strong point. We’ll need better efforts than this from now on. But I’m proud of the way we bounced back, especially George and Mike.”
Victory came a little more easily for the other Wolverines. At No. 1 singles, freshman Evan King put on a dominant performance, winning 6-1, 6-0. Junior Jason Jung won 6-2, 6-3 at No. 2 singles and junior Chris Madden won 6-0, 6-3 at No. 5 singles.
Still, the story of the day was Navas and Sroczynski. The two have been key contributors to the team for four years and were honored on the court with their families before the match in a special presentation.
“It was definitely emotional for me,” Sroczynski said. “I was fortunate enough to spend four great years here and met a lot of people that have helped me. It’s sad, it’s my last match at home. It was difficult.”
“The pre-match ceremony was nice… but all of the emotions of the day didn’t really hit me until the second set of singles,” Navas said. “I don’t think I’ve been like that in a long time. For the rest of my life, I’ll be really proud of my four years here. I’ll look back and remember more than just the matches; I’ll remember the connection I had with everyone else on the team. I love this university and I’ll always be a part of this program in some way or another.”
Navas will have a quick transition from the life of a college athlete to the real world. He starts working at Bank of America in late June, just weeks after the season ends, while Sroczynski will continue to pursue tennis.
After the match, Berque had a lot of praise for both players, lauding their contributions to the program.
“I’m always going to have fond memories of them, not just for the success they have endured, but for the commitment they have made to this program,” Berque said. ”They bring so much to this program and this team, it was nice to see them have a strong finish.”