The Michigan women’s tennis team has been led by a trio of juniors — Denise Muresan, Whitney Taney and Rika Tatsuno — during its current season.
Yet, it’s been sophomore Michelle Sulahian who has flown under the radar and been crucial to the Wolverines’ unprecedented success in the NCAA Championships.
Her singles record has been impressive, second only to Muresan with 32 wins. And her doubles partnership with freshman Mimi Nguyen has been extremely successful as well, yielding 31 wins.
This weekend, in first and second round play at the Varsity Tennis Center, Sulahian’s contributions sparked her team to victory on both days of competition. Playing at No. 2 doubles, Sulahian and Nguyen registered commanding victories in both matches, winning 8-0 against Illinois-Chicago and 8-2 over Ohio State.
On the second day, especially, Sulahian and Nguyen played an aggressive, attacking style of tennis. Looking to avenge a loss earlier in the year, Sulahian and Nguyen focused on getting to the net before their opponents.
In doubles play, chemistry is crucial, and it is clear that Sulahian and Nguyen have plenty of it.
“We know where we are at all times,” Sulahian said. “We’re best friends off the court, so it really helps on the court.”
In singles play, Sulahian was just as dominant. Playing in the No. 6 position, Sulahian got off the court quickly on both days.
“She put the second point up,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “It makes everybody kind of relax and go for their shots a little bit more.”
In the first round, Sulahian cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 victory. On the second day, she faced off against Buckeye sophomore Cami Hubbs, a player she had not faced previously. Sulahian went up 5-2 early in the first set after winning two breaks, seizing the early advantage.
“(Hubbs is) the kind of player that works off of momentum, so it really helped,” Sulahian said.
With this in mind, Sulahian stopped Hubbs’ momentum after a break forced Sulahian to serve for the set at 5-4. On the final point, the sophomore ended a long rally with an overhead smash that clearly got in her opponent’s head.
In the second set, Sulahian worked to limit her mistakes and mix up her play to throw off her counterpart. She varied her shot selection, alternating high balls with different types of slice shots. Because of this, the Valley Glen, California native ran away with the set 6-0, earning her team’s second point for the second straight day.
According to Bernstein, Sulahian’s consistent contributions to the team have been vital, regardless of where she plays in the lineup.