EAST LANSING — When the word “rivalry” is brought up, a few things come to mind. Most rivalries are constructed by three major factors — a high level of intensity, a lot of crowd support, and a close, competitive finish. When the No. 56-ranked Michigan men’s tennis team (10-5, 3-0 Big Ten) went to East Lansing yesterday to battle the No. 63 Spartans at the Indoor Tennis Center, it looked like this model was going to be followed once again.

Well, two out of three isn’t bad.

The Wolverines disposed of the rival Spartans (10-7, 2-1) in convincing fashion, dropping just three sets en route to a 6-1 win.

“(My first Michigan vs. Michigan State game) was about what I expected,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “They had a really nice crowd and were really enthusiastic.

“This is a tough place to play. Their courts are fast, and they have a really good home court advantage. So I’m very pleased with the result from tonight.”

But it wasn’t a walk in the park the entire night. After winning the No. 3 doubles match in convincing fashion, Michigan found itself in a hard-fought battle in the remaining two doubles matches. Both the No. 1 and 2 doubles teams needed decisive tiebreakers to settle their respective matches.

In the No. 1 match, sophomore Brian Hung and freshman Matko Maravic found themselves trailing opponents Andrew Formanczyk and Mike Brown at 6-7 in the tiebreaker. Serving down match point, the Wolverines stayed in the point and were eventually bailed out by a cross-court winner from Maravic. The momentum carried, and Michigan picked up its next two points, giving it a close 9-8(7) victory.

Seconds after the victory at No. 1, the No. 2 doubles team of senior Josef Fischer and sophomore Ryan Heller fell to the Spartans. After saving two match points earlier in the match, the Wolverine duo was finally defeated by its Spartan foes — Michael Flowers and Andrew Stefani — 9-8(5). The No. 3 doubles team of seniors Vinny Gossain and David Anving had easily put away Bryan Karazia and Joseph McWilliams, though, winning by a convincing 8-1 margin.

“Our (No. 3 doubles) played great,” Berque said. “I thought our (No. 2 doubles) came out too tentative and didn’t play aggressive enough, but we came through in the end to get the point.

“We were a point away from losing the doubles point, and Brian and Matko came up big for us.”

But Michigan State couldn’t match the competitive flair it showed in doubles. Clinging to their 1-0 lead, the Wolverines came out strong in the early stages of singles, grabbing early leads in five of the six matches.

Sophomore Steve Peretz was the first Wolverine to break into the win column for Michigan in singles action. His dominating 6-2, 6-0 win at No. 6 singles over Karazia set the tone for the rest of the Wolverines.

Anving continued his dominance, following Peretz off the court after his own convincing win. His 6-2, 6-1 victory over Brown at No. 5 singles put Michigan one point away from winning.

Heller provided the clinching point for Michigan at No. 4 singles. His serve dictated play, and he took advantage of break point opportunities, cruising to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Stefani.

After dropping a big lead to Flowers in the first set, Hung managed to battle back at No. 3 singles, winning the last two games to take the first set, 7-5. In a mirror image of the first set, he once again grabbed a sizeable lead early, but Flowers battled back again. Hung came up big when it counted once again, winning the second set 6-4.

“I was pleased with the result of the match,” Berque said. “Winning by this margin on the road is always a positive. But they were a little shorthanded tonight, and I think that some of the effort could have been better.

“We’re going to have to play better this weekend if we want to beat (No. 20) Notre Dame.”

 

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