After reaching the semifinals in the ITA Midwest regional championships and winning the Wolverine Invitational earlier this season, few questioned the ability and drive of Chisako Sugiyama.
Any remaining doubters have now been silenced.
The frigid temperatures outside could not cool a streaking Sugiyama. She breezed past much of her opposition in the Michigan Invitational, en route to a singles championship.
The sophomore consistently pressured her opponents and forced them into errors. On Sunday, her victim was Denver’s Julia Bauregger, whom she defeated handily in straight sets (6-0, 6-4). Sugiyama struggled near the end of her match, dropping a break point, but her resolute determination and poise helped her regain her composure and capture the tournament title.
“I just want to go out and play hard to help the team win,” Sugiyama said.
Michigan hosted the invitational at the Varsity Tennis Center this weekend, inviting three quality teams (Louisiana State, Duke and Denver).
The 10th-ranked Blue Devils were an early season test for Michigan. The Wolverines proved they could play with the best by winning 4-of-7 singles matches against Duke.
“Duke is a really good team,” Sugiyama said. “But the way that we played them showed us that they are beatable and that we can beat a top-10 team.”
Michigan freshman Tanvi Dudhela also finished the weekend undefeated in singles play, concluding with a win over Denver’s Katja Smole on Sunday (6-0, 6-1). Dudhela hopes her teammates can carry this early season momentum into the winter.
“We had great singles wins against very good teams, and we showed we can compete with the elite in the country,” Dudhela said. “We have a really tough schedule coming up, and this tournament gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Wolverines finished with a 12-8 record in singles play,
including a 6-1 performance against Denver. But the team has struggled in doubles play, finishing just 4-7..
In Sunday’s most exciting match, junior Allie Shafner rallied from a sizeable deficit to defeat Denver’s Lorinda Boothman.
After dropping the first set and struggling at times in the second, Shafner regained her confidence and took the set in a tiebreak.
“Allie is a big-time competitor,” Sugiyama said. “Everyone sees how hard she works, and we can build off that. As a team we feed off of each other’s energies.”
As her teammates circled the courts to cheer her on, Shafner began the final tiebreak in a dead heat with Boothman. Even though she dropped two crucial points, Shafner was not deterred, and her cheering teammates propelled her to win the tiebreak 10-7.
“The girls are constantly encouraging each other while playing,” Michigan coach Amanda Augustus said. “This can really help change the momentum of the match and is why we love to play at home.”
Shafner’s mental toughness proved to be resolute, a characteristic that Augustus hopes all of her players will exemplify. To gain an edge, Augustus has implemented a mental training program to help players maintain their confidence during matches.
“You can put two similar players on the court, and it’s the mentally tougher one that’s usually going to come out on top,” Augustus said.