On Saint Patrick’s Day, the No. 10 Michigan men’s tennis team brewed a 7-0 sweep of Pennsylvania, demonstrating a concerted effort to play with intensity on the doubles court.
Michigan coach Bruce Berque considered the trip to Philadelphia a day of “progress,” where the team could get back on track in doubles play, an area in which it was recently struggled. The Wolverines surrendered the doubles point to Brown on March 8 and again in a win over Michigan State last Wednesday.
On Saturday, the Wolverines won all three doubles matches, despite the effort of an overmatched Pennsylvania team and some lineup juggling.
“We’re not up to the level we want to be in doubles yet,” Berque said. “It was better, but we’re not satisfied.”
Berque had to break up the effective duo of freshman Jason Jung and sophomore Mike Sroczynski for the match because Jung played an extra tournament in the fall. Scroczynski teamed with junior Scott Bruckmann and won in their first match together, 8-6.
“We used Scott because he consistently adds passion and energy in doubles,” Berque said.
Berque isn’t nitpicking over his team’s doubles problems. He’s preparing for the Wolverine’s upcoming Big Ten push.
Michigan (2-0 Big Ten, 11-2 overall) faces two strong conference opponents in the next eight days: Wisconsin at home Friday and Penn State in State College Monday.
The Wolverines are ready to see how they stack up in a conference that also includes two other highly ranked teams in No. 2 Ohio State and No. 16 Illinois.
“We’re capable of beating anyone on our schedule,” Berque said. “More than half of our matches from here on out can go either way if we don’t bring our best competitive effort. Anything less just won’t get it done.”
Berque downplayed his team’s ranking, calling it “old news,” but the Wolverines national standing is difficult to ignore. According to the national polls, Michigan is off to its best start since 1989.
To continue its winning streak, now at five in a row, Michigan will have to maintain the same energy it demonstrated against Penn.
This year’s Wolverines should have the highest of aspirations. With two players – junior Peter Aarts and senior Matko Maravic-rapidly approaching the twenty-win mark in singles, the team’s potential is undeniable.
But to challenge for Big Ten supremacy, Michigan will need continued production from established singles players like Aarts and Maravic.
Against Penn, Aarts came back (3-6, 6-1, 6-4) to win his No. 4 singles match, and then Maravic sealed the singles sweep (7-6 (2), 6-4).
When Wisconsin travels to Ann Arbor Friday, both singles and doubles will need strong performances because the rankings aren’t reflective of the Badgers’ talent.
“Wisconsin has lost a fair amount of close matches, but the rankings don’t put any weight on that. They and Penn State are underrated,” Berque said.
If Michigan can win Friday, it will gain necessary momentum for the rest of the season, where, from now on, the Wolverines will exclusively battle Big Ten foes.