Down 3-1 in a match against a 16th-ranked South Carolina, the Michigan women’s tennis team looked to its youngest players, freshman Mimi Nguyen and sophomore Michelle Sulahian, for the win. They had already won their doubles match, but now they had to win in singles as well.
“It was in my head the whole time: I can’t let this match go. That’s what pulled me through,” Nguyen said.
And she succeeded. Sulahian followed with another vital victory to give the Wolverines a 5-4 win against the Gamecocks. Because of the win, Michigan is in unfamiliar territory, the ITA Indoor Championships in Madison, a tournament as prized and coveted as any.
In this young season, Michigan’s catalyst has been its young talent, specifically Nguyen and Sulahian. On a predominately veteran team, these two always seem to come away with big wins and hold a 26-11 record in doubles.
Nguyen, a Long Beach, Cal. native, is no stranger to success. She has spent her whole life ranked in the top 20 in the United States Tennis Association and even top five in the U-16 age division.
Although Nguyen had a shaky fall season, since the Wolverines started this winter her game has been heating up.
“Coming into the dual season, I wasn’t expecting much,” Nguyen said. “I had a bad fall season, but I practiced harder. I wanted to do well and I wanted to do well for the team.”
And that drive is taking her to newfound heights. In the month of January alone, Nguyen has racked up singles wins against top-25 teams like Arkansas, Washington, South Carolina and Miami, the only Wolverine to do so.
“I’m confident and confident in staying consistent,” Nguyen said. “I’m a pretty consistent player, and I’m really confident in my volleys. I’m confident that I can put the ball away.”
And as doubles partners, the chemistry is clear between the two talented freshmen. When Sulahian puts a serve out wide, Nguyen reacts with a cross-court volley for a winner. When one player is down, the other brings her up. It has guided them to a 6-1 record, better than any other combination for the Wolverines.
“We have known each other since juniors,” Nguyen said. “We are so adaptive, good friends, and comfort each other. We feed off of each other’s energy.”
The two are expected to perform beyond their years this season on a team desperate for star power.
Nguyen and Sulahian will look to continue this winning form in a pair of dual matches and the ITAs.
“I just wanna keep working on improving my game,” Nguyen said. “I want to play with the older girls, be able to handle to handle that atmosphere (of the ITA’s), I want to prove myself and my game.”