Over the past few matches, the No. 22 Michigan women’s tennis team has seemed more focused, more dedicated to taking the doubles point and more determined to winning singles matches in straight sets. The team had goals it wanted to execute going into the tail end of the season.
On Sunday, the Wolverines (14-5 overall, 8-1 Big Ten) did just that to their Big Ten competitor Iowa (6-15, 2-8) in a 4-0 win.
Their focus, dedication and determination have rewarded them a four-game win streak going into the remainder of regular season play.
After a turbulent season in which the Wolverines struggled to find the doubles point, Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein made a shocking change.
During a matchup against Michigan State on April 9, she elected to break up the 74th-ranked doubles duo of No. 75 sophomore Jaedan Brown and junior Andrea Cerdan. Instead, she paired Brown with freshman Julia Fliegner at the No. 1, Cerdan with No. 15 sophomore Kari Miller at the No. 2 and No. 121 junior Nicole Hammond with sophomore Merri Kelly at the final spot.
“The beauty of it is that you can do it different each day,” Bernstein said. “I was happy with it today. Obviously, it has been sort of a struggle with our doubles.”
Michigan took the reins of the doubles matches early on with victories at the Nos. 1 and 2 spots. Miller and Cerdan took a quick lead of 5-1. The duo failed to finish on their first two match points but finally succeeded on their third, ending the set 6-2.
Over at the No. 1 spot, Brown and Fliegner took an early 3-1 lead to keep the momentum going. However, the Hawkeyes managed to counter to tie the set. Ultimately, Brown and Fliegner prevailed with a 6-3 win and secured the doubles point.
After losing 11 of the first 16 doubles points, the new combos proved successful for the second time in the past three matches.
With the point in hand, Michigan used its 1-0 lead as the drive for a strong singles showing.
Rolling into singles matches the next three points came in straight sets by Brown, Miller and sophomore Gala Mesochoritou.
“We had a little more focus in practice,” Bernstein said. “I feel like it paid off today in the matches.”
With first set wins in four of the six matches, the Wolverines looked to be in fantastic position. Michigan went on to take three matches in straight sets and abandoned the remaining three for the win.
First off the court, to no surprise, was Brown at the No. 1 spot. She took Iowa’s Marisa Schmidt in straight sets. The first set came easy as Brown breezed past her opponent, 6-1. She missed four match points before finally taking the second set, 6-2, and the win. It was yet another straight set win to add to her repertoire.
“She has been doing that the last month,” Bernstein said. “She has been a huge part of our success.”
Next off was Miller at the No. 2 spot. After an exhaustingly long set point rally, Miller’s opponent hit the net, and Miller claimed a 6-2 first set victory as she screamed in excitement. She then sailed to a 6-1 win in the next set, giving Michigan a 3-0 lead.
At the No. 6 spot, Mesochoritou took care of business, 6-3 and 6-1.
The Wolverines were oozing with confidence after another shutout, their sixth of the season.
The team needs to be firing on all cylinders going into some of the toughest competition in the league with Illinois and Northwestern next week. A part of their preparation is making sure they lead their matches with the doubles point win and keep their momentum going.
“If we can get the doubles point, I think there is three singles matches out there for us against anybody in the country,” Bernstein said.