But Michigan’s women’s tennis team certainly showed
its opponents whose house they were in this weekend at the ITA
National Indoor Tennis Championships.
At the doubles wildcard spot, juniors Michelle DaCosta and
Leanne Rutherford claimed the runner-up position in the consolation
finals after a stunning second-round win over Florida, but fell
just short to Maria Brito and Julie Coin of Clemson, 8-6.
“We ended on a good note,” Rutherford said.
“Even though we lost, we played a competitive
The duo had a rocky start to this final match, trailing 5-1 in
the eight-game pro-set. But a pair of aces from DaCosta and a
handful of put-away volleys by Rutherford enabled Michigan to take
three games in a row.
In the end, Clemson’s lobbing tactics proved to be the
deciding factor in the Wolverines’ narrow loss.
Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt explained that the duo’s upset
win over the No. 2 Florida team of Jennifer Magley and Zerene
Reyes, 8-4, was the highlight of the tournament.
“I don’t think there was one ounce of intimidation
on the court,” Ritt said.
“We were pretty focused and made our shots. We showed we
have a lot of poise and confidence.”
A combination of patience and quick hands at the net allowed
Michigan to take this second-round consolation victory.
DaCosta and Rutherford entered the consolation bracket after
suffering a tough loss to Amy Wei and Megan Muth of William &
Mary, 2-8, in their opening match.
The doubles tandem quickly bounced back with an impressive win
over Nikkita Fountain and Larikah Russell of Southern Nazarene,
“We’re taking lots of confidence for our doubles
team away from this tournament,” DaCosta said.
On the singles end of the Michigan-hosted event, freshman Liz
Exon earned an easy victory, 6-1, 6-2, in the first consolation
round over Jessica Roland of Texas A&M, who is currently ranked
No. 36 in the country.
“I feel real good,” Exon said. “I played
competitive with pretty much everyone.
“Knowing you can play with the top girls in the country is
definitely a confidence booster.”
Eighth-seeded Alice Barnes of Stanford defeated Exon, 6-2, 6-0,
in the opening round, though both Exon and Ritt stress that the
score did not reflect the intensity of the match.
Exon also lost a tough match to No. 6 Darian Panova of Oregon,
6-3, 6-2, in the semifinals of the consolation bracket.
“I think it’s just an unbelievable experience for
Liz,” Ritt said. “She knows she can play at the top of
Though Agata Cioroch of Georgia claimed the singles championship
and Christelle Grier and Jessica Rush of Northwestern took home the
doubles title, Ritt feels Michigan proved worthy of its wildcard
positions as the host school.
“Seeing this level of competition, we realized how close
we really are,” Ritt said.
Heading into the offseason before their dual-match season that
begins in January, Rutherford echoed Ritt’s optimism.
“We’re there,” Rutherford said.
“It’s just a matter of maintaining that competitiveness
and fighting for Michigan.”