Against No. 11 Louisiana State on Friday, the Michigan men’s tennis team suffered its second consecutive defeat, losing 5-2. It was the first home loss of the season, so the Wolverines were in need of a pick-me-up.
And yesterday, a little Southern hospitality did the trick.
In Tuscaloosa, Ala., Michigan pummeled No. 58 Alabama, 6-1, and tarnished the Crimson Tide’s previously undefeated record.
“The effort was very competitive,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “We played some good tennis. Losing at home on Friday, we didn’t play as well as we hoped to against Louisiana State. (But yesterday), we beat a pretty good team on the road and bounced back. The guys played real well.”
The Wolverines started off the day on the right foot, winning the doubles point with two victories in three matches.
At the No. 1 doubles position, the tandem of sophomore phenom Matko Maravic and junior Brian Hung found itself down an early break in the third game to Alabama’s pairing of Joseph Jung and Mathieu Thibaudeau. But the Michigan duo persevered to pull an 8-4 victory.
“Matko and Brian hung in there and didn’t panic,” Berque said. “They got back to executing like they normally do.”
Michigan clinched the doubles point when junior Ryan Heller and freshman Andrew Mazlin defeated Andrew Felsenthal and Dan Buikema, 8-6, in a very competitive match. Berque said that the No. 2 doubles team came away with the win by keeping its game simplistic and basic.
Michigan rode this tide of momentum to the singles end, where it picked up five wins in six matches.
Wolverine freshman Scott Bruckmann earned his first career dual-match singles victory against the Crimson Tide’s Sammy Struyf. The newcomer looked more like a veteran in his 6-2 match, pummeling of Struyf.
“I was really happy for Scott,” Berque said. “He played very well, competed very well and is showing a lot of improvement.”
Mazlin’s singles play did not go unnoticed by Berque either. The first-year player had a successful weekend, notching two singles wins at the No. 4 position. In what has become his typical comeback fashion, the rookie bounced back after losing the first set to Alabama’s Billy Mertz. Mazlin hammered Mertz in the next two sets to secure a 6-7, 6-2, 6-0 victory.
Singles success was also shared by the Wolverines’ veterans, with Heller clinching the competition for Michigan with a solid three-set performance. After breezing through the first set, the co-captain dropped the second frame. But Heller wasn’t rattled and went on to win six straight games to seal the victory, 6-0, 4-6, 6-0.
Hung and junior Steve Peretz dominated their competition, as well, improving their individual singles records to 5-2 and 6-1, respectively.
With a very tough schedule this year, the Wolverines have faced many of the top collegiate programs in the country early on this season. Michigan has had to travel away from the Varsity Tennis Center to play against many of these highly competitive teams. The Wolverines are hoping to make a national reputation for themselves by securing important road victories like yesterday’s against the Crimson Tide.
“That was not an accident to have a tough schedule,” Berque said. “It’s kind of sink-or-swim. We have no false sense of security or satisfaction. If we get a win, then the guys know that they really earned it.
“What they’re gaining is that they realize that they can’t be soft at all in terms of their competitiveness. They have to bring their competitive best every time. It also places more burden on them during the week with an urgency on improvement. They know that if they want to win and be successful, they have to (develop) quickly.”