In a match that appeared to have the potential for a massive upset, the Michigan women”s tennis team lost a tough match, 5-2, to No. 8 Tennessee yesterday at the Varsity Tennis Center. The Wolverines managed to win the doubles point in the early going, but dropped five of the six singles matches.
“Tennessee is a very good team with very talented players,” Michigan coach Bitsy Ritt said. “Their players are very experienced, and they expect to win. That”s the reason they”re in the top 10 in the country.”
During doubles play, the Wolverines (3-2) came out looking sharp. Michigan”s No. 3 doubles team of sophomore Kavitha Tipirneni and Chrissie Nolan wasted little time handing the Volunteers (5-3) an 8-2 loss.
On the next court over, Michigan”s No. 1 doubles team was faced the very difficult task of climbing out of a 4-0 hole. Freshmen Leanne Rutherford and Michelle DaCosta did just that, winning five of the next six games to tie the score 5-5. After dropping the following game, the Wolverines won the final three to clinch the doubles point for Michigan. Tennessee”s losing No. 1 tandem was ranked 45th in the nation.
“I was so pleased to get the doubles point,” Ritt said. “It was great for our confidence (early in the match). With Michelle and Leanne being down, they fought hard when the doubles point was on the line.”
It appeared that the Wolverines had the momentum going into the singles matches, and might be able to pull one out. But once the matches began, Michigan was shown why the Volunteers are one of the top team in the nation. Four of the six Tennessee singles players are ranked nationally, and each Volunteer won her opening set. At No. 6, junior Joanne Musgrove found a way to rebound, winning the next two sets, 6-3, 6-0.
“(Tennessee) started out playing very well in the first set and I was playing into her game,” said Musgrove, who improved to 4-0 on the season. “I wasn”t playing smart, but then I figured out what I needed to do. Her game was never the same after that.”
Although Musgrove was the only Wolverine able to pull out a victory, Tipirneni came the closest to advancing to a third set. After dropping the first set to Tennessee”s 16th ranked Allison Ojeda, Tipirneni found it hard to keep pace in the second set. She was on the brink of losing down 5-1 when she began a charge. With many points being won after long rallies, she fought back to tie the score. In a test of endurance, the match advanced to a second set tiebreak, with Ojeda coming out on top.
“It was a good match toward the end, and I”m proud of the way I fought,” Tipirneni said. “I”m glad I did something about (my deficit), and it gave me confidence late in the match.”
Michigan has little time to recover, as No. 16 Kentucky comes to the Varsity Tennis Center tomorrow for its last dual meet before the start of the Big Ten season.