With the score knotted at 30-30, Chiara Lommer and Alyvia Jones were feeling the pressure. If they could just take this game, the underclassmen would clinch the doubles point for the Michigan women’s tennis team. If they faltered, the point would go to Kansas.
They did not falter.
The No. 2 doubles pair set up back-to-back unforced errors to take their match, 7-5. The victory was just the beginning of Sunday’s dual match, but in the end, the Wolverines finished on top, 7-1.
Though the ITA Kick-Off is not until next weekend, Michigan didn’t want to wait to play. By starting its season early, it’s just one more opportunity for coach Ronni Bernstein and the team to see what works well and what doesn’t.
“We’re trying to figure out a way to win the doubles point,” Bernstein said. “We’re trying to find someone that plays aggressive with someone that sets them up. Today we got (the doubles point), which was great, but we’ll change it until we feel like it’s good.
“But that doubles point is big and I think it was a momentum thing for us today.”
Some may think that a freshman and sophomore doubles duo is risky, but it clearly paid off for the Wolverines. In fact, their senior pair at No. 3 doubles, made up of Mira Ruder-Hook and Kara Hall, was the only team that dropped their doubles match.
The underclassmen didn’t just shine in doubles, though. The first two players off the court were Jones and freshman Bella Lorenzini, at No. 3 and No. 6 singles, respectively.
Jumping out to a quick start, Jones eventually lost her 2-0 lead, and the score was tied up again. While the first set was a grind for the freshman, she took control early in the second set. Braced with a 5-1 lead, Jones was down on points, 40-15. But Jones was eager to end her match, forcing the game to deuce and winning a baseline rally on a Jayhawk error.
While Jones just joined the Wolverines at the beginning of the winter semester, she has already proven herself, earning her way into the doubles and singles lineup due to her unbeaten record.
“She’s aggressive, she’s got some weapons,” Bernstein said. “She’s got a big serve, big forehand, she plays defense well, too. I think she has it all. … Definitely a big addition mid-year.”
While the freshmen breezed through their matches, that wasn’t the case for every Michigan player. Normally, when a team reaches four points the match is over and all matches are abandoned, but Ruder-Hook and Lommer were given the opportunity to play out their third sets.
With all her teammates watching, Lommer was the last on the court. She had a 5-2 lead in the final frame, but was down on points, 40-30. She fought off a game-point to set up deuce. With no advantage scoring, this was Lommer’s chance to end it.
Kansas was going to make her work for it, though.
After a rally of over 30 shots, both players were clearly exhausted but neither wanted to go for the big shot and make a mistake. It became a matter of who was going to make the error first, and in the end, it was the Jayhawks’ Janet Koch. Lommer won her match, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.
As fall tennis is all about individual play, it was clear that the Wolverines were excited to get back to being a team. They rushed up to Lommer to greet her and exhaled as their first dual match was in the books.
With ITA Kick-Off on the horizon, Michigan’s season is just getting started. But thanks to a strong veteran force and eager underclassmen, the Wolverines are poised for another impressive season.