Entering Saturday’s match against North Carolina, Michigan women’s tennis coach Ronni Bernstein was just a single win shy of becoming the winningest coach in program history.
The Wolverines, however, couldn’t deliver Bernstein her record-setting win. That accomplishment will have to come another day as Michigan (3-2 overall) couldn’t handle the constant pressure from the star-studded Tar Heels (7-0) in a 5-2 loss.
According to Bernstein, UNC is the best team the Wolverines have seen so far. Five of its six singles players are ranked — including four in the top 20 — and it has six ranked doubles pairs.
“We switched around our teams a little bit and had some chances,” Bernstein said. “We knew we probably needed to go out and get that doubles point.”
While Michigan brought energy during doubles play by chanting and calling out to the crowd, it ultimately couldn’t overcome the Tar Heels’ firepower. UNC set the pace and the Wolverines were unable to keep up, dropping the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches.
Soon after, at No. 1 singles, Michigan sophomore Kari Miller took the stage. Ranked 17th in the country, Miller looked to maintain team morale. She swept the first set over fifth-ranked senior Cameron Morra while constantly cheering on her teammates beside her.
Morra, though, stepped up her game in the following set. She unleashed a flat serve that painted the corner of the court, then switched it up with a topspin serve that kicked so hard it changed direction on impact.
“I told her after the first set, (Morra’s) probably going to get better and start making more balls,” Bernstein said. “And she did, and Kari wasn’t ready for that.”
Miller struggled to find the same success she had in the first set, but she remained calm. Finding the occasional opening, she secured two games with finesse but ultimately lost the set, 2-6.
As Morra smashed the ball with her characteristic double-handed forehand, Miller stopped cheering on her teammates to hone her focus on the opponent in front of her.
After narrowly conceding the first game and squeaking by the second, Miller’s defense became impeccable. She dug out ball after ball until Morra would make a mistake. Then, she capitalized with a well placed shot to win the point.
After losing that first game, Miller won six straight. She celebrated with her signature “On!” as she took down one of the highest-ranked singles players in the country.
But while Miller battled at No. 1, the Tar Heels swept the No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5 singles to clinch the victory.
Wins from Miller and sophomore Gala Mesochoritou at No. 6 brought some excitement, but it didn’t last long. Junior Andrea Cerdan fell promptly in consecutive games to end the longest match of the event, reminding the spectators at the Varsity Tennis Center of the match’s outcome.
Bernstein, though, remained optimistic for the team’s future — and that her milestone win will come soon.
“Hopefully this will give us confidence,” Bernstein said. “We have to play teams like this and see where we stand, and hopefully against California we’ll be ready.”