The doubles point has been alluding the No. 22 Michigan women’s tennis team all year. The Wolverines routinely had to fight and scrape their way to victory, while digging themselves out of the 0-1 hole. But on Saturday, Michigan seemed to turn a corner.
With the doubles point secured, the Wolverines (12-5 overall, 6-1 Big Ten) took the first three singles matches to shut out Michigan State (9-9, 1-6) and rack up their 22nd consecutive victory against their cross-state rivals, 4-0.
After four straight games without the doubles point, the team was frustrated.
“We worked on it all week,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “We went with different pairings today, and I think it went better.”
Bernstein elected to break up the No. 70-ranked doubles duo of No. 73 sophomore Jaedan Brown and No. 121 junior Andrea Cerdan. She opted to match Cerdan with No. 13 sophomore Kari Miller, Brown with freshman Julia Fliegner and sophomore Merri Kelly with No. 119 junior Nicole Hammond.
The reworked pairings all took early 2-0 leads in their matches and made quick work of their opponents. Starting 1-0 was a rarity for Michigan, and it helped propel it to a dominant win.
“I’m certainly happy with getting the doubles point,” Bernstein said. “Hopefully they will gain some confidence from that.”
As the Wolverines took to the singles matches, confidence was radiating through the courts. They took five of the first six sets playing more comfortably with the lead.
Cerdan dominated her opponent at the No. 4 singles in straight sets giving Michigan a 2-0 lead with good standings in the remaining singles.
At the No. 2 singles, Brown showed her resilience against the Spartans’ Maja Pietrowicz. After having a good lead in the first set, Brown let her anger out shouting in frustration as Pietrowicz pulled back to tie the set 5-5. However, frustration soon turned to relief as her opponent hit the net and Brown took the set 7-5. She then took that momentum into set two, dominating for the 6-1 win.
With the Wolverines up 3-0, eyes turned to the No. 1 singles match where Miller was battling Michigan State’s Mary Lewis to seal the shutout victory, but was unable to find a rhythm in the first set. With an adjustment, Miller took set two and three handily ending the match and sealing the victory.
Miller has been nearly automatic all season. She’s gone 10-2 in her singles matches with seven wins over ranked opponents.
“She’s playing the best kid every week,” Bernstein said. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on her and I need other spots to step up.”
But Miller’s singles wins aren’t enough.
With four games left in the season, all Big Ten matchups, Bernstein wants to get more straight set wins.
“We need to figure out how to get off the court quicker,” Bernstein said. “We can’t let opponents hang around.”
But Brown has become one player with the ability to finish her match swiftly.
Of Brown’s 14 singles wins this season, 13 have come in two sets. She has dominated at the No. 2 spot in dual matches and has reliably given Michigan a quick point.
“Jaedan has been doing it all season,” Bernstein said. “Getting off the court in two sets, that’s what I am talking about.”
With a .947 (142-8) winning percentage in Big Ten regular season matches under Bernstein, Brown and the Wolverines look to be in a good position for their remaining matchups.
“If we can get clicking in all singles,” Bernstein said. “We are going to be a tough team in May.”
As the postseason nears, Michigan is hoping that the new doubles matchups will continue to find success and that it will make starting 1-0 a routine.