The Michigan women’s tennis team has won three consecutive Big Ten titles and is looking to keep its streak alive.
The Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 9-3 overall) have already won a Big Ten match this season, sweeping Michigan State, but that was in the middle of the non-conference dual-match season. Big Ten season officially begins this weekend for the Wolverines, marking a start to a very difficult stretch.
“The Big Ten is stacked with really good teams,” said Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein. “Every team is going to be gunning for us and we need to be ready for each match.”
With four teams ranked inside the top 20, it’s crucial for Michigan not to get ahead of itself. This year’s dual-match season has proven that rankings don’t earn victories.
“We can’t look past anybody (in the Big Ten),” Bernstein said. “College tennis, this year, is one where you see tons of upsets. If you look at the national results, you will see some surprises, and we just don’t want to be surprised.”
Added sophomore Emina Bektas: “Everyone is fighting for the Big Ten title. It doesn’t matter what team it is. Even if they have zero wins, you always have to go in there and have a battle — everyone is fighting for the ring.”
Michigan has been playing its best tennis going into the Big Ten season and will look to use that to its advantage. The Wolverines have played a rigorous schedule, but no opponent defeated Michigan handily. The highlight of non-conference play was when the Wolverines upset then No. 2 Duke, 4-3.
Michigan has a strong core of top players in both singles and the doubles. But in the first weeks of the season, Michigan struggled to find the right doubles combinations. The Wolverines have since solved that issue, though, winning the doubles point in their last three matches.
The pair of Bektas and junior Brooke Bolender headlines the Wolverines’ lineup. The nation’s No. 2 pair is 7-1 at the top spot and is always looked to for a victory.
“We know each other well and know where we will be positioned on the court at all times,” Bektas said. “We complement each other well and have tons of experience together.”
Added Bernstein: “They’ve taken it to another level. They are solid at the net and play unlike any other doubles team in the country. They are very aggressive, and I don’t know if any other team plays like that — teams don’t see that.”
The success doesn’t end with the doubles. Michigan is stacked in its singles lineup and boasts three top-100 players.
The singles lineup is solid upfront with freshman sensation Ronit Yurovsky, Bektas and sophomore Sarah Lee.
Playing at both the first and second spots, Yurovsky has faced tough opponents, and only once has she come out on the losing end. Yurovsky has gotten more aggressive throughout the year, taking more shots out of the air and controlling the net.
With such a solid, deep lineup the Wolverines are most definitely in the running for a fourth consecutive Big Ten title.
“I expect the (Big Ten season) to be tough,” Bernstein said. “It is going to be a grind. When you play a Big Ten match, the energy is different and we need to be ready for every match.”
Michigan starts the conference season Saturday when its travels to Madison to take on Wisconsin.