Michigan might have been crushed by rival Michigan State in men’s basketball, but the No. 13 women’s tennis team (1-0 Big Ten, 7-3 overall) wasn’t due for a similar fate. In its first Big Ten match, the Wolverines took on the Spartans (0-1, 8-3) on Wednesday in Ann Arbor and proved to be a terror, crushing their rivals, 7-0.
“Any time you can play Michigan State when you’re Michigan is big,” said Michigan coach Ronnie Bernstein. “It is a big rivalry, and we wanted to play well and we did that today.”
Michigan started the meet off right, winning point after point in its doubles matches. Leading the way was the nation’s No. 3 pair of sophomore Emina Bektas and junior Brooke Bolender. Earlier in the day, Bektas was named the Big Ten Player of the Week.
The pair started the match strong, earning two quick breaks. Playing with energy, the pair was never broken on its serve. When things took a turn midway through the match, the pair responded with tough serves and returns, ultimately leading to an 8-3 victory.
“We have a lot of playing experience together,” Bektas said. “We played all of last year, and we complement each other well. We have improved on a lot of things like our return game, first volleys, getting to the net.”
Michigan then looked to clinch the point with a victory at the No. 3 spot. Luckily, the new tandem of freshman Amy Zhu and senior Mimi Nguyen came out firing on all cylinders. Dominating the net and baseline from the start of the match, the Spartans could never get going. The pair looked like it had been playing together for years, showing great chemistry and poise in a win over Emily Meyers and Julianne Gruber, 8-1.
Michigan’s duo of freshman Ronit Yurovsky and sophomore Sarah Lee was well on its way to victory, leading the Spartans, 6-2, but the match was halted after Michigan had clinched the doubles point.
The Wolverines looked to continue their dominance in the singles matches, but before they began, Bernstein made a bold decision. She swapped Bektas out of the No. 1 spot in favor of Yurovsky, who has been a force on the court recently, winning her last 13 matches.
“Either Ronit or Emina can handle the top spot because they are both team players,” Bernstein said. “Wherever we put them they will get the job done. But Ronit can definitely handle it at number one.”
It didn’t bother Bektas, as she cruised to a comfortable victory over Catherine Parenteau, 6-3, 6-1. The sophomore was too hard to break, and just as Parenteau gained momentum, Bektas broke her service.
“I was trying to do what I usually do — getting to the net,” Bektas said. “I stayed in the points and grinded out a few of them and got the victory.”
In her new role as the Wolverines top singles player, Yurovsky played like a wily veteran — never letting her opponent gain any momentum. The freshman never got broken and fired back huge returns, which guided her to a 6-2, 6-1 win.
Michigan took all of this energy into the remaining matches, gaining huge wins by Bolender, Zhu and sophomore Kristen Dodge.
“We took care of business today,” Bernstein said.
Michigan will try to again take care of business on Saturday against No. 2 Duke.
“(Duke) is going to be a really tough team, and we are going to need everyone out there,” Bektas said. “We are all confident to go out there and we believe we can win.”