With a singles championship on the line, sophomore Kari Miller was faced with more than an ordinary match point.
After dropping her first match point on a double fault, Miller wouldn’t be denied, wearing down Ohio State’s Irina Cantos Siemers with deep and heavy groundstrokes from the baseline.
“A few years ago … I really struggled with my serve,” Miller said. “I would double fault a lot, probably two, sometimes more times a game. I’ve gotten to a point where I know I can come back from it.”
Capturing the singles championship with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory capped off an impressive weekend for No. 31-ranked Miller and the Wolverines at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Super Regionals in Columbus.
After dispatching her opponents in the first two rounds, Miller dropped her first set 6-3 against the Buckeyes’ Lucia Marzal.
Miller responded with tactical domination, taking the next two sets, 6-3, 6-1.
“I was playing a girl who makes every single ball. Sometimes that’s tough to play people like that because that’s kind of my game style in a lot of ways,” Miller said. “I do know I have the other side of my game where I can come into the net, and I can be aggressive. It was just a matter of figuring out in the match when was the right time to do that.”
In the semifinals, Miller was pitted against No. 90 Clarissa Hand of Northwestern.
Hand had a much different approach, scattering huge groundstrokes all over the court against Miller.
But Miller’s methodical breakdown of her opponents continued to let her dictate the action.
“The girl I played was a lot more aggressive and she pretty much went for broke on a lot of her shots. At that point, when someone is pretty much going for a winner on every shot, it’s really hard to kind of control the points,” Miller said. “At that point, I would say it’s more trying to weather the storm and trying to break them down then it is trying to get on top of every ball.”
Miller broke Hand’s serve in every game in the first set en route to a 6-2, 6-2 victory to punch her ticket to the final.
And Miller wasn’t the only successful Wolverine over the weekend.
No. 122 sophomore Jaedan Brown and sophomore Andrea Cerdan were both automatic entries in the singles main draw.
In the first two rounds, Brown eked out victories against Northwestern’s Hannah McColgan and Briana Crowley, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4) and 6-4, 7-6 (5), respectively.
In another grueling match, Brown fell just short in the quarterfinals, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-5, against Hand.
Cerdan advanced all the way to the semifinals in a back-and-forth affair against Siemers.
After stunning Siemer with a 6-4 victory in the first set, Cerdan couldn’t quite hold on, as Siemer came storming back to take the next two sets, 6-2, 6-2.
Sophomore Meri Kelly and freshman Julia Fliegner also earned their spots from qualifying play earlier in the fall and proved they belong.
Fliegner took down Michigan’s State’s Nicole Stephens, 6-3, 6-1 before getting stopped by Siemers, 6-1, 6-2.
Kelley fell in her first round match, 6-3, 6-4.
In doubles play, the tandem of Brown and Miller reached the quarterfinals, while Fliegner and Kelley fell in the round of 16.
Nearly half of the players competing in the singles quarterfinals were from Michigan, and Cerdan was one set away from setting up a Wolverine-Wolverine matchup in the championship.
In a tournament featuring some of the best players in the country, Michigan showed their singles lineup will be a force as team-play approaches.
“I think it was really good for us,” Miller said. “It just shows that we at least can hang with the other top Big Ten teams and the teams in our region.”
While Miller’s play led the way this weekend, her success, along with the team’s, goes beyond just tennis.
“I think it’s more (about) mindset,” Miller said. “I kind of had the right mindset this weekend. I’m going to fight for every point, one point at a time.”