The weekend may not have gone as the Michigan women’s tennis team had hoped, but that doesn’t mean it has anything to be worried about. The team split up to take part in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships and the Kitty Harrison Invitational, walking away with plenty of experience to propel them into its spring season.
With a focus on competing as individuals, the fall season gives the Wolverines a chance to work on themselves before their real season begins.
“We definitely got a lot of good opportunities this fall,” said junior Kate Fahey. “This fall had a very high level at each tournament, so I think I just took each match as an opportunity to step up my game and raise my level for (spring) season.”
Fahey and sophomore Chiara Lommer will be key players to watch comes the spring. Both competed in California at the Fall Championships – Lommer for the first time – and managed to make the most of their tournaments. While Lommer dropped her first match, sending her to the consolation draw, she rebounded with two straight wins before falling in the quarterfinals, 7-5, 6-4.
On the other hand, Fahey had a hot start to her tournament. After struggling at Regionals and earning a wildcard to the Championships, she won the first two rounds to reach the round of 16, even defeating No. 14 Gabby Smith from Southern California in three sets.
“I had lost to her last year, so it was a good win for me,” Fahey said. “It gave me momentum in the next round but also gave me a lot of confidence going into season.”
In the round of 16, Fahey dropped the first set, 6-3. She stormed back to win the second set, 4-6, and then jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the third set. It was Fahey’s game to win, but No. 2 Gabriela Talaba of Texas Tech notched five straight games to give her the set and end Fahey’s tournament.
“I definitely think I played more aggressive this fall,” Fahey said. “When I came in freshman year, I definitely had a more baseline game and (Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein and assistant coach Teryn Ashley-Fitch) have really helped me develop my aggression when I play. It’s not really what I’m used to, but this fall I think I developed some of that – I took my chances a lot more.”
Across the country in North Carolina, the rest of the team battled in its last tournament of the year. The Kitty Harrison Invitational saw both singles and doubles action, and a chance for sophomore Lera Patiuk to demonstrate the hard work she put in from the offseason.
Patiuk concluded her freshman spring campaign with a 7-8 singles record in dual match play in the No. 6 spot. But over the weekend, she picked up two doubles wins and a singles victory against Carolina Costamagna, where she had to win two tiebreakers to seal the match.
Noticeably absent from both tournaments was reigning national champion and junior Brienne Minor. She has yet to compete this fall after postponing her knee surgery to play in the U.S. Open, though, she is expected to be back for dual match play in the spring.
“I think the season is dependent on how much we do these next few months,” Fahey said. “We are going into eight hours and have more time off, but I really think the teams that succeed in season are the ones who put in the extra work, put in the work that’s recommended but not necessarily that’s required.
“So I think if the team as a whole wants to do that, I think we’ll talk about it. I think each one of us is an extremely hard worker and won’t have a problem with it. Just to put in the extra hours going into season, I think it will help us a lot.”