After two shortened seasons, the Michigan women’s tennis team was finally able to make their long awaited return to a full slate of matches this fall with the Wolverine Invitational as their third event of the year.
The Wolverines hosted Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Arizona State and Western Michigan at the three-day meet this past weekend. The Wolverines had a positive overall record for the event with a total of 17 wins and nine losses. The event didn’t count for team points but remains important to see how each of the players stand before the ITA All-American Championships next week. Potential doubles teams had an opportunity to build chemistry in a competitive environment and the players received one of their first big tests.
The team started with a strong first day, going 5-1 in doubles and 4-1 in singles.
“We brought competitive teams in here and I feel like we got a high level of play,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “They’ve been practicing hard, and it showed that first day”.
Michigan’s biggest bright spot was undefeated freshman Julia Fliegner who finished the weekend with a 4-0 singles and 3-0 doubles record.
“She had an unbelievable weekend,” Bernstein said. “It was a great match against Notre Dame against a girl who’s going to play high for them. We didn’t see her much last year because of COVID, but she was very impressive. Really everybody was, I was proud of the whole group and how they competed.”
Fliegner would finish 7-0, but her final match was the most difficult of the weekend. Notre Dame’s Page Freeman jumped out to a two game lead to start the match, including a break in the first game. Fliegner broke back to make it 3-3, but later had her back against the wall with Freeman serving with a 5-4 lead. After a crucial break and hold from Fliegner, Freeman was down 6-5 and had to win her serve to force a seven point set tiebreak. However, at 30-40, she double-faulted to lose the set 7-5. The second set was also back and forth, but Fliegner never gave up the lead and cleaned up the match to win, 7-5, 6-3.
The invitational was capped off with a gritty three set win from junior Nicole Hammond against Arizona State’s Cali Jankowski. After a 6-1 first set loss, Hammond commanded the rest of the match and never again gave up the lead in either of the final two sets. The 1-6, 6-2, 6-3, Wolverine win ended the event with a statement comeback.
Although the Wolverine Invitational was non-scoring, Michigan now has momentum that it will look to carry forward into the rest of the season. Five of the Wolverine’s top players will travel to South Carolina next week and compete in the Michigan’s first scoring event of the season.
“I’m going to use this event as a confidence point,” Fliegner said. “When I’m in tough points in next week’s tournament I’m definitely going to think back to here and how I played.”