It was just one win, but one win can go a long way in turning around a season that up to last weekend had been filled with disappointment.
With its thrilling 4-3 comeback victory over Wisconsin, the Michigan men”s tennis team now looks to this weekend”s crucial Big Ten matches to revive its season. The Wolverines will host rivals Penn State tomorrow and Ohio State on Sunday at the Varsity Tennis Center.
“If there was ever a time that we needed to forget the past, that time is now,” sophomore Chris Shaya said.
Up to its match against the Badgers, the Wolverines had not won a conference match, and were losers of seven of eight. But the home courts were conducive to Michigan, and the win ran the team”s record to 7-2 at the Varsity Tennis Center.
“It was a must-win match, and winning was a big boost,” Shaya said. “At 1-3 there”s still life in us, but 0-4 would”ve been a big blow.”
In Penn State, Michigan faces a team that it has beaten in nine-straight matches, including a 6-1 pounding last year in Happy Valley. But like Northwestern, a team that Michigan should have beaten a few weeks ago, the Nittany Lions pose a very real threat.
“Penn State I definitely don”t think is as good as Northwestern, but we need to at least put together good matches,” Shaya said.
Similarly, the Wolverines have had their way with Ohio State, taking the last eight matches, and winning 4-3 at Columbus last year. But Ohio State has a much-improved team from a year ago, and is actually the highest nationally ranked Big Ten team.
“Ohio State is very good, they are no joke,” Shaya said.
The Wolverines have quietly been led, at least statistically, by an unlikely, and largely unknown player, freshman Anthony Jackson.
Despite being thrust into the starting lineup from day one, Jackson has responded well, leading the team in wins and winning percentage. It was Jackson”s victory that capped the comeback over Wisconsin. He has been a solid player at the No. 5 singles position, as well as playing No. 3 doubles with junior Ben Cox.
“Anthony”s a great player and there”s no reason why he shouldn”t be leading the team in wins,” Shaya said.
It has been a maturing process for the Wolverines, but the team collectively realizes the importance of stringing some wins together.
“Everybody was looking to others to win the match for them, but that isn”t happening now,” Shaya said. “We all got together and agreed that we needed to pull it together.”
With a match at Michigan State on the horizon, and the Big Ten Championships around the corner, Michigan must get on the winning track to build momentum for the conference and NCAA Tournaments.
“It”s not like the season is lost, we”re looking to make a nice little run at the tourney,” Shaya said.
One win can turn it around, but it takes a streak to keep the season going.