The Michigan men’s tennis team was one singles victory from a championship. Instead, it dropped its first match of the 2013 dual-match season.
The Wolverines traveled to Berkeley, to play in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, where they dropped the championship match to California, 4-3.
On Friday, the 20th ranked Wolverines were able to win, 4-1, against Santa Clara, to set up a dual with No. 14 California on Saturday.
Michigan dominated the match against Santa Clara, but the momentum swung back and forth against California.
The Golden Bears jumped out to an early 2-0 lead by winning both the doubles point early and the first singles match, 6-3, 6-1.
The Wolverines came roaring back to even the score when junior Barrett Franks scored a 6-4, 6-1 victory, and senior Evan King secured his 60th-career win with a 6-3, 7-5 decision over 66th-ranked Ben McLachlan.
Sophomore Alex Petrone put the Wolverines in a position to win after notching a 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 win, but Michigan was unable to secure the final point.
Sophomores Vlad Stefan and Michael Zhu both dropped their matches 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 to give California the championship.
It was a tough fought match, which was not lost on the players or Michigan head coach Bruce Berque.
“I felt we competed really hard on every court,” Berque said. “I thought we were really strong mentally in singles and our level of play was pretty good.”
Added King: “It was a battle, it was back and forth. It was really fun.”
Some growing pains are expected since it’s early on in the year, and Berque knows where his team needs to improve.
“Doubles was a little disappointing both days, we were able to escape with the point (Friday), but (Saturday) we just weren’t able to play the way we are capable of playing,” Berque said. “It’s the most obvious thing we need to work on.”
While Michigan’s team play may have faltered over the weekend, certain individuals shined in their singles matches.
“Alex Petrone had a great weekend,” Berque said. “He won his match (Saturday), and (Friday) he was one point away from winning before the game was cancelled. Evan King also did a really good job.”
King, the team’s top singles player, has been on a roll in 2013: he’s 6-0 since the calendar rolled over. This weekend, he was a perfect 3-0 as he dominated every match he was a part of by not dropping a single set.
“I just try to put what I practice into the games,” King said. “I think us as a unit, including me, have been doing a much better job of practicing.”
They fell short of a championship this time, but this weekend only gave the Wolverines confidence to carry over into the next match.
“We’re right there, we’re right on the verge,” Berque said. “I think we can be one of the top teams in the country and have a great finish to the season.”
Added King: “Everyone’s goal is to win the Big Ten (Championship), and I think we’re on track with that. We definitely haven’t peaked as a team yet.”