With a trip to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship on the line, the No. 16 Michigan women’s tennis team traveled to Oklahoma this weekend to square off against Kansas and No. 14 Oklahoma State.
A true team effort ensued, as the Wolverines earned two wins in as many days and will now have the chance to play for an indoor championship in Seattle on Feb. 10. Michigan (3-0 overall) shut out Kansas (2-1) but struggled against a tougher opponent in Oklahoma State (2-1). They still managed to beat the Cowgirls, 4-2.
Play began Saturday morning with juniors Jaedan Brown and Kari Miller grabbing a quick doubles win over Kansas’ Malkia Ngounoue and Heike Van Vuuren, 6-3. Shortly after, sophomore Julia Fliegner and freshman Lily Jones followed up with a second win, 6-4, to lock up the doubles point.
Despite being on the younger side, the impact of No. 39 Fliegner and No. 65 Jones was tangible. The Wolverines, regardless of class, are strong across the board. Of the nine players on Michigan’s roster, six are ranked as individuals.
“There’s just no holes in our lineup,” Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. “If we can get that doubles point it’s going to be tough to win four singles against us. … I trust every spot, I trust our doubles. I trust all six, whoever I put out there.”
As a team, Brown and Miller currently rank as the No. 2 women’s doubles pairing in the country. They’ve played together since a young age and both made considerable contributions to the Wolverines’ efforts over the weekend.
“They have a great relationship and their games kind of mesh,” Bernstein said. “Kari carries more play from the baseline and Jaden is looking to move and that works well in doubles.”
Coming out of the gates quickly in doubles play proved a successful strategy against Kansas. Michigan carried that momentum into singles play and never looked back, winning three straight matches to sweep the Jayhawks.
Competition was certainly stiffer on Sunday. Squared up against a top-15 Oklahoma State squad, the Wolverines stuck to a similar approach as the day before. They won the doubles point once again, though by a considerably smaller margin.
But the Cowgirls didn’t relent. They continued applying pressure, winning the first two singles matches and giving the Wolverines their first deficit of the weekend. However, Fliegner quickly flipped the script with a 6-3, 6-4 win. Two more singles wins followed, with Miller dealing the fatal blow.
Fliegner’s table-turning win on Sunday wasn’t an isolated performance but rather capped off an impressive showing. She went undefeated on the weekend across both singles and doubles play.
“It was huge today, her win,” Bernstein said. “She works really hard, she wants to be really good. … She’s got a big game so she can step up in big moments.”
Winning twice to secure the opportunity to play for a National Team Indoor Championship represents a streak of momentum that the Wolverines have been building on since the start of the year. They fell short last year but thus far, aggressive strategy and an overwhelming sense of team has proven a winning strategy for Michigan in 2023.
Against Kansas and Oklahoma State, it was more than enough.