Michigan women's tennis team has home-courts advantage in NCAA regional; men head to Mississippi
Courtesy Michigan athletics
After both were upset during the Big Ten Tournament two weeks ago, the University of Michigan men's and women's tennis teams are looking for some post-season success this weekend at NCAA regional tournaments.
With back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances under its belt, the women's team -- which lost to fifth-seeded Purdue in the Big Ten title match -- has experience and home courts advantage when it opens tournament play at 1 p.m. Friday.
Coach Ronni Bernstein is confident that playing at the Varsity Tennis Center will be an advantage for her team when it faces Illinois-Chicago.
The Wolverines' No. 1 singles player, Emina Bektas, agrees.
“It’s definitely nice being able to play here at home in front of our crowd,” said Bektas, who was named to the All-Big Ten first team and named the league's Freshman of the Year after going 31-8 in singles play. “Knowing that we could possibly go out here in front of our home crowd and advance to Athens, (Georgia, site of the NCAA Tournament) is a great feeling.”
On the men’s side, the Wolverines are looking to advance past regional play for the first time since 2008. They open play in Oxford, Miss., where they take on Middle Tennessee at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Coach Bruce Berque knows his team, which lost to Illinois in a Big Ten semifinal, has the ability to reach their goal.
“We’re pretty healthy and guys are playing better each day and we have a really good chance to play our best tennis at NCAAs," he said. "That would be a really nice way to finish the season if we can do that. To advance through regionals, for me and for them, I think would be a pretty special accomplishment.”
Courtesy Michigan athletics
Both squads have been off the court for nearly two weeks and that break has given players a chance to recuperate from a long Big Ten season.
“It was nice to have a little bit of time off. During the season you don’t really have that much time off. I think this past weekend was the first weekend we didn’t have a match since January,” said men’s No. 1 player Evan King, an All-Big Ten first team selection and the conference's Athlete of the Year.
“It was definitely nice, but I think everybody on the team is ready to get back on the court and get back in form for that final approach.”
While the coaches agree that having the time off is nice, too much time away can derail the momentum built during the season, according to Berque.
“Sometimes after you take a little bit of a break, that first day back there can be a little transition period,” said Berque. “I didn’t think we were as sharp as we could have been, but it’s been building.”
With the disappointing outcome of the Big Ten Tournament fresh in their minds, Bernstein thinks her team can use the loss as a reminder of what can go wrong when their minds slip.
“We didn’t step up when we needed to. With the big points you need to step up and not let your opponent come at you and hope they’re going to make a mistake.” she said. “That’s sort of the message going into NCAAs. We need to step up and go to win it.”