When the competitive Big Ten schedule officially opened for the No. 18 Michigan women’s tennis team yesterday, sophomore Rika Tatsuno and the team were prepared for battle.

A week removed from receiving Big Ten Athlete of the Week, Tatsuno was in the win column again yesterday. This time, she helped propel the Wolverines to their second straight 7-0 victory and eighth straight victory over in-state rival Michigan State.

“People are going to start to notice her,” Michigan coach Ronnie Bernstein said. “I would not be surprised if she popped into the national rankings when they come out tomorrow.”

Tatsuno improved her singles record to 4-2 by beating Spartan sophomore Manon Noe 6-3, 6-2.

Last Tuesday, the Big Ten office announced Tatsuno as the Athlete of the Week after she recorded a combined 4-0 record in singles and doubles against both Yale and No. 14 Notre Dame.

Tatsuno’s wins included an impressive straight-set victory over Notre Dame’s 39th-ranked Kristy Frilling.

“If she keeps playing the way she is, she is going to win more (awards),” Bernstein said. “It’s great because right now, she is just gaining more and more confidence.”

The Wolverines secured the all-important doubles point behind the duo of freshman Michelle Sulahian and sophomore Whitney Taney. Taney, who has proven to be a major asset in doubles play this year, has posted a 4-1 record at the No. 2 position. She is also 1-0 at No. 1.

“Whitney has really bought into the Michigan program,” Bernstein said. “She is just such a great listener and competitor in both singles and doubles.”

Senior Chisako Sugiyama also improved her singles record, earning a close win against Michigan State senior Stephanie Kebler, 7-5, 3-6, 10-4. Kebler, who Bernstein said was an “aggressive baseliner,” was the only Michigan State player to beat a Wolverine last season in East Lansing.

For the young Wolverines, the win to open the Big Ten season will serve as a confidence booster heading into the heart of the spring season. The Wolverines will take a brief break from Big Ten play and head to Coral Gables, Fla. to face off against the No. 15 Miami Hurricanes next Thursday.

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