The Michigan women’s tennis team has been known to pull off upsets, and this weekend provided an excellent opportunity for the Wolverines to jump start their season against No. 10 Virginia and No. 1 North Carolina.
Not only was an upset out of reach from the start, but many of the teams’ lingering issues came to the surface.
The weekend ended and Michigan didn’t have a win to show for it, falling to the Cavaliers on Friday, 4-2, and to the Tar Heels on Sunday, 4-1.
It has been a disappointing start to the Wolverines’ season. At this point last year, Michigan was 6-2 and had four top-25 wins to its name — it currently sits at 4-4 with no top-25 wins. For a team that features the reigning national champion, made it to the Round of 16 in last year’s NCAA Tournament and returns all its regular starters, the lackluster start comes unexpectedly.
But while this weekend’s matches weren’t the results the Wolverines were hoping for, it’s not a cause for concern for them yet as health issues have kept them from playing in peak condition.
“We haven’t been healthy, we’ve had people out,” said Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein. “It’s really getting everybody able to play. We’re going to need everybody feeling good and competing, and kind of staying out on the court and we’re not quite getting that from everybody.”
The most notable of the health issues that Bernstein referred to is junior Brienne Minor. After her NCAA Tournament win and US Open appearance, she had knee surgery in the fall. This weekend’s matches were just her fourth and fifth matches since returning and she’s still just getting her confidence back.
Minor didn’t take either singles match, but after dropping the first set in both matches, she battled back to force third sets both times. And while she wasn’t a part of the lineup that claimed the doubles point on Friday, she did team up with senior Mira Ruder-Hook to notch the Wolverines’ only doubles match win Sunday.
Junior Kate Fahey was the only Michigan player to earn singles wins all weekend. She picked up a three-set win against Meghan Kelley of Virginia, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, and knocked off No. 6 Alle Sanford of North Carolina, 7-6, 6-1.
Fahey’s match finished just as the Tar Heels clinched the match, but the match was allowed to count and put the Wolverines on the board.
While the weekend had some bright spots, such as Fahey’s singles action and Minor’s improvement, Michigan is proving its inconsistency as of late. With only two more ranked opponents and a historically lax Big Ten schedule on the horizon, the Wolverines won’t have many more chances to show they can hang with the elite.
“I think we’re making progress, but we have a long way to go still,” Bernstein said. “We try to play as tough an out of conference schedule as we can, it shows us kind of where we want to be at the end of the year.”
But for now, Michigan isn’t close to where it wants to be.