In a year filled with extraordinary success for the Michigan women’s tennis team, the Wolverines may have just earned their greatest achievement yet — the program’s 500th victory.
But this feat wasn’t won by a single serve, volley or backhand. Instead, the team collectively performed in dominant fashion, blowing away Minnesota on Saturday at the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis and Wisconsin on Sunday at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison on Sunday.
“(The 500th win) is exciting,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “I’ve only been here for three-plus years, so most of those wins before have been from (previous coaches). But we’re just excited to get to that number, and it’s a tribute to the girls on my team. We have a great group and hopefully we can keep adding to that number.”
Added senior Rika Tatsuno: “Being able to share that experience is just something words can’t describe. It’s just really amazing. I think every one of us on the team put in an effort to reach that mark, and I’m really proud of everyone.”
Michigan began weekend play by shutting out the Golden Gophers, 7-0, winning all nine matches it played. Although this was quite a feat in itself, the Wolverines put an exclamation point on the victory by winning all six singles matches in straight sets. No tiebreakers were needed.
“We talk about the total team effort,” Bernstein said. “We talk about getting good starts, focusing on what they’re doing, and staying within the game plan, and trying to really roll through the match. We did that (Saturday), we got really strong starts, and we never let up. We really played at a high level all the way through.”
By winning the fourth point (6-0, 6-3) of the rout, Tatsuno not only clinched the match for Michigan, but also earned her twentieth singles win of the season.
“I’ve been working a lot on my game — more mentally,” Tatsuno said. “I’ve been building a lot of confidence. I think the whole team has been doing that. We’ve been winning a lot of matches.”
Added Bernstein: “Rika’s done amazing for us all four years — but this year especially. She’s playing a little lower in the lineup, but we’re strong all the way down. We feel really confident wherever she plays. She usually plays two sets, gets off the court quickly, and gets us a point.”
The Wolverines then took their talents to Madison, where once again they won all nine matches in a 7-0 shutout of the Badgers. On Sunday, senior Whitney Taney scored the winning fourth point, cruising in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2.
With 500 wins under its belt, Michigan returns to the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor this Saturday to face Ohio State. And given the fact that the Wolverines have not trailed in a Big Ten match yet this season, the team’s preparation probably won’t change.
“We’re definitely feeling good; we’re feeling confident,” Bernstein said. “In the last couple years, we’ve always had really good matchups with Ohio State. They definitely compete very hard. We’ll take (Monday) off and get back to work on Tuesday. We’re excited to be at home and playing on our home court and hopefully we can win even more this weekend.”