After a fault by Isabelle Boulais, sophomore Jaedan Brown clinched her singles match. As the result sank in for both teams, the No. 20 Michigan women’s tennis team stormed the court in celebration.
Not only had Brown sealed an impressive shutout against the Buckeyes, avenging a loss earlier in the season — she also clinched the Big Ten Championship.
Michigan (19-5 overall, 10-1 Big Ten) defeated Maryland (18-7, 6-5), 4-1, and Northwestern (14-9, 8-3), 4-3, en route to the finals, before beating Ohio State (20-5, 11-0), 4-0. The Wolverines beat the Terps handily, but their match against the Wildcats came down to the wire.
Getting there wasn’t a cakewalk.
Against Northwestern, sophomores No. 19 Kari Miller and Gala Mesochoritou both lost their matches late in the third set to knot the score at 3-3. All eyes turned to freshman Julia Fliegner and Northwestern’s Christina Hand. With the pressure on, Fliegner dominated the last set, 6-2, sending her team to the Big Ten tournament finals.
“I have been in that position a few times now and am much more comfortable being the deciding match,” Fliegner said. “It made me lock in and I knew there was zero room for error since I wanted to pull through for my team.”
Fliegner’s teammates stood by to cheer her on and give her the support she needed to win.
“My team being on the sidelines honestly makes all the difference,” Fliegner said. “Being the last match made me really focus on my game plan, and having my teammates right there made me motivated to do it.
Michigan’s championship match was a team win, and every player in every spot stepped up big.
“I think what feels so good, obviously, is winning the Big Ten Tournament, but also the way we played,” Michigan coach Ronnie Bernstein said. “We’ve talked all year about putting together a complete match and the girls just played incredible today.”
The Wolverines started the match against the Buckeyes strong, taking an early 1-0 lead thanks to the doubles point. Michigan refused to allow a repeat of its last matchup against Ohio State, when it lost, 4-3, in heartbreaking fashion.
At the No. 1 doubles spot, Brown and Fliegner won their match, 6-3, and were the first ones off the court. However, the Buckeyes shot back and took the No. 3 match, 6-4. Junior Andrea Cerdan and Miller held the doubles hopes in their hands. They found themselves in an early 0-2 hole in the set, but the pair heated up and won five straight sets. Inevitably, they won the match, 6-4, to clinch the point.
Fliegner showed up once more for her team, producing a dominant straight sets win at the No. 5 spot, 6-3 and 6-0, putting up the second point for Michigan. Already, the Wolverines were nearing victory.
And they didn’t let the Buckeyes back in it. In the No. 1 singles matchup, Miller took down Ohio State’s No. 8 Irina Cantos by winning five straight points in the first set and then six straight in the next set. Miller walked away after putting the Wolverines up 3-0 and earning her second win of the season against Cantos.
At the Nos. 3 and 4 spots, it seemed that Cerdan and junior Nicole Hammond were going to get swept in straight sets, but both players fought hard to win their second sets and keep Michigan in the driver’s seat.
The final point came from Brown against Boulais, and Brown did what she always does: won in straight sets. The first set came easy, 6-3, but the second was a fight. It went to a tiebreaker and Boulais couldn’t contain her frustration on the court. After every lost point, she lowered her head. Brown, on the other hand, stood tall and kept her momentum going. She took the tiebreaker and immediately celebrated with her teammates.
The Wolverines finally did what Bernstein had been looking for all season: they dominated on every court.
“I can’t stress how well we played today,” Bernstein said. “Ohio State is a great team. We lost to them a month ago, we just pretty much couldn’t have played better on every court.”
Not only did Michigan avenge that earlier loss, but it did so on the biggest stage so far this season — the Big Ten Championship.