Heading into this weekend, junior Chisako Sugiyama wanted revenge.
Even though the 25th-ranked Wolverines lost to No. 2 Northwestern 5-2 yesterday at the Combe Tennis Center in Evanston, Sugiyama was able to rattle off impressive victories over ranked opponents in both her doubles and singles matches.
She dominated longtime personal rival and No. 9 Georgia Rose in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1.
Sugiyama and Rose have competed against each other every year since 2006.
When both were freshmen, Sugiyama lost a close match to Rose in the NCAA Regional Championships while Rose played with a broken wrist. Last year, they squared off in the Big Ten Championships, but because Northwestern claimed the Big Ten title during their first set, their match was abruptly stopped at 6-6.
After two winless matches against Rose, yesterday was different for Sugiyama.
“I was mentally ready and was moving well on the court,” she said. “I didn’t wait for the ball to come to me. When I got the chance, I went for it.”
Even though Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein was very pleased with Sugiyama’s efforts, she emphasized the need for all six singles players to play well and be competitive.
“Chisako really stepped it up today,” Bernstein said. “It was a good sign she was able to beat a really good player who she has had some tough matches with in the past.”
Sugiyama said she thinks that Michigan can be competitive against Northwestern and that they “better be ready” for a potential rematch at April’s Big Ten Championship.
Despite Sunday’s conference loss, the Wolverines showed on Friday night that they can beat highly ranked competition, edging No. 21 Tennessee 4-3 in front of a large and lively crowd at the Varsity Tennis Center.
Michigan was able to take the doubles point as all three duos defeated their Volunteer foes.
The Wolverines carried the momentum into singles play as they pulled out three victories, two of them from freshmen.
Freshman Rika Tatsuno claimed her first career singles victory, beating Lady Volunteer Rosalia Alda in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5.
The most exciting performance of the night came from freshman Whitney Taney.
Taney seemed to have control after winning the first set, 6-0. But Tennessee’s Ghizela Schutte crept back into the match, winning the second set tiebreaker and coming back from a 5-1 deficit in the third set.
“The pressure was fun, with all the fans and my teammates watching,” said Taney. “I knew I had to stay positive, have composure, and be aggressive whenever I could.”
With support from the crowd in the form of “Let’s go Blue” chants, Taney finally won the match, giving Michigan the fourth and clinching team point.
“She really showed some heart,” Bernstein said. “This match will help her in the future, knowing she can get it done.”