It was a familiar ending to the Big Ten season for the Michigan men’s tennis team, as it lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament for the sixth consecutive year.
It was defeated by No. 14 Illinois, 4-0, on Saturday after beating Indiana by the same margin in the quarterfinals.
“I thought we played pretty well overall,” freshman Evan King said of Michigan’s performance in Indianapolis. “We got off to a good start against Indiana, and we fought hard against Illinois, but we were just unable to pull matches out.”
But the lopsided score against the Fighting Illini didn’t reflect the match.
The No. 25 Wolverines nearly won the doubles point after King and junior Jason Jung won at No. 1 doubles, 8-4.
Freshman Chris Cha won the first set before losing 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 at No. 6 singles. Then, Jung, King and junior Chris Madden were still alive in their matches before being forced to abandon them after Illinois claimed the decisive fourth point.
Just a week ago, the Wolverines also experienced the same losing fate to the Illini, 5-2.
“I think we did a good job in both matches against Illinois, but they’re a good team and we just haven’t had enough to beat them,” King said.
On Friday, Michigan — the tournament’s third seed — thoroughly dominated the underdog Hoosiers. It took the doubles point and King, Cha and senior George Navas all won in two sets to clinch the match.
“Our overall level of play was very good,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “I really challenged our guys this week to take Indiana very seriously. We had a good start in doubles and were able to get up a few breaks at No’s. 2 and 3. We thought the doubles point would be pretty important and thought we could get an edge, so that was nice to see.”
Despite the disappointingly familiar ending, this season was one of promise for Michigan (9-3 Big Ten, 13-10 overall).
The Wolverines finished with a strong 9-3 record in Big Ten play and a higher national ranking than last season. They pulled off a big upset against No. 10 Cal, and highly touted freshman King performed well all year long, culminating in being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
“I was really excited and surprised (to win it),” King said. “That was one of my goals at the beginning of the year.”