Michigan can breathe a sigh of relief.
After weeks of struggling on the court, the women’s tennis team snapped a five-match losing streak to start its Big Ten season with two straight wins.
“We’ve talked all week that really our season is starting again,” said Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein. “We’re just going to take it one match at a time and see what we can do, there’s still a lot to play for.”
The Wolverines were on the road against Iowa and Nebraska, winning 6-1 and 4-3, respectively.
Friday evening saw Michigan (2-0 Big Ten, 5-8 overall) revert back to typical form. It clinched the doubles point easily with No. 1 and No. 3 doubles earning victories and dropping just four games between them.
Braced with the 1-0 advantage, sophomore Brienne Minor took the court for her singles match and defeated Hawkeye Zoe Douglas — earning her first singles win at No. 3 since her NCAA Championship victory and subsequent knee surgery. While she has been back to full health for some time, her confidence was lacking. This may have been the breakthrough she needed, a sentiment the rest of the Wolverines can understand.
“The thing we talked about is just forgetting what’s in the past,” Bernstein said. “We can’t go back to any of those matches. I think the biggest thing was to just change our presence.
“When things are difficult, what are we gonna do — be tough and fight through it or are we gonna go away.”
With the Iowa victory under its belt, Michigan took its newfound toughness and put it to the test against a strong Nebraska (13-3, 2-1) squad.
At first, it appeared the Wolverines were lost once again. Senior Mira Ruder-Hook was locked into a cross court rally, but in her attempt to keep the ball away from the net player Ruder-Hook’s inside-out forehand sailed wide. Michigan had dropped the doubles point.
While not ideal, it wasn’t the nail in the coffin. But then the first singles match to finish was a 6-0, 6-2 loss from Ruder-Hook. The Wolverines were in a 2-0 hole.
But their confidence didn’t waver. The next four Michigan players were victorious, with junior Kate Fahey securing the team win. Fahey’s consistency was the guiding light through the Wolverines’ rough patch, but Sunday, she didn’t have to carry the team alone.
“It’s unbelievable at the top spot to know that Kate is going to come through,” Bernstein said. “But I think the biggest thing is all the pressure can’t be on her all the time. We needed other people to step up. … That’s going to help up play looser and freer and that’s how we’re going to get better as a team.”
With the rest of the team catching up to Fahey, the team chemistry may just be starting to click for Michigan. The Wolverines have chosen the perfect time to get their season back on track, and the hopes of winning the Big Ten no longer seem so far-fetched.
Maybe Michigan’s season really is just beginning.