Last weekend’s match against Ohio State was special for Michigan freshman tennis player Debra Streifler.
“It came down to Michigan or Ohio State,” Streifler said about her decision on where to play collegiately. “I was really nervous to play them, but once I got out there, all the nervousness turned into positive energy.”
Her energy transformed into wins, as she was the only undefeated Wolverine in singles and doubles matches last weekend. Unfortunately for the Wolverines (1-1 Big Ten, 4-2 overall), they were unable to beat the Buckeyes (3-0, 5-0) on Sunday, losing 4-3.
But the weekend was a personal victory for Streifler (the only freshman on the team), as she solidified herself as a role player among veterans.
“We basically have the same team as we did last year, so she had to step up and prove herself to break into the lineup,” junior Chrissie Nolan said. “This weekend, she really stepped it up.”
Streifler has been consistent all year long, compiling a 13-4 singles record, the second-highest winning percentage on the team behind Joanne Musgrove.
And while they lost a very close match against their rival, the Wolverines are anything but demoralized. Streifler credits the team’s chemistry as the driving force in overcoming defeat.
“We’re really close; we’re like a family,” she said. “The sky’s the limit for us this year.”
Nolan echoes her doubles partner’s excitement about this season.
“We’re all much more confident this year,” Nolan said. “We all trust each other and know we can get the job done.”
Nolan mentioned that trust is something the Wolverines lacked in years past, but this year is different because the Wolverines return essentially the same team from last year’s Big Ten semifinal finish.
“We have high expectations and high goals,” Nolan said. “We can accomplish them if we play up to our potential.”
This year, the Wolverines have added that extra confidence needed to make a stronger push towards the postseason. The key, Nolan and Streifler stress, is winning in crunch time.
“Last year, we played a lot of 4-3 matches, and we’ll have lots in the future,” said Nolan. “It’s a matter of winning the tight ones.”
Of the six dual matches played this year, four have been decided by one win.
And more tough competition is on the way. Michigan will spend their spring break in North Carolina playing against No. 28 Wake Forest and No. 4 Duke.
“Wake Forest was the turning point last year,” Nolan said. “We really came on strong for the end of the Big Ten season.”
The Wolverines lost at then-No. 3 Wake Forest last season, but developed enough confidence to win nine of their final 13 matches. This year, the Wolverines confidence level has been sky-high since the beginning.
“Last year we surprised a lot of teams,” said Nolan. “This year people know what to expect when they play Michigan.”