At first I was like...
That's what an extreme, come-from-behind, in-your-face gritty road win will do for your demeanor. #30 Michigan slipped to a dreadful 0-3 deficit on the road against #40 Vanderbilt before a rally led by 3 court Alex Petrone and sealed by 6 court Alex Buzzi won the match for the Wolverines. Buzzi has now won two straight matches on court 6 for Michigan.
It was another slightly schizophrenic day for No. 8 Evan King at 1 court, who prevailed in three sets over No. 66 Charles Jones, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3. I have trouble understanding how one's quality of play can swing so dramatically from set to set. Regardless, King's record has improved to 7-2 in singles matches this season.
Michigan's woes on 2 court continued as Shaun Bernstein was defeated 6-2, 7-6. 4 court Michael Zhu also went down in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
Two more matches remain before Big Ten play opens against MSU March 17: at Hawaii March 1, and at Wake Forest March 10. A split would leave Michigan at 6-5 and needing 7 wins out of 11 Big Ten games to match their season record from last year and qualify for the NCAAs. It's doable with this gritty, tenacious team but a sweep would make life easier.
*For an explanation of NCAA scoring matches, see Appendix A.
Big Ten play is still over a month away, but plenty has already happened in the 2011-2012 Michigan men's tennis season. Following Saturday's 5-2 win over #32 LSU, the #28 Wolverines are 4-2 on the year. The two 4-3 losses on the year so far were tough matchups against top ranked #10 Duke and #21 Texas Tech.
The last time we saw the Wolverines in action vs. LSU at the Varsity Tennis Center Saturday last, the Wolverines gave up their first doubles point of the year. No. 3 court Petrone/Zhu (both freshmen) fell 3-8, while on No. 2 court, Buzzi/Franks (sophomores) gamely played on after dropping the break, falling 6-8. King/Bernstein (Jr/Soph) rolled 8-3 on No. 1 court. LSU's players served up many lobs on the doubles courts, testing Michigan's deployment of both men beyond the baseline at times.
In singles Michigan players won all but one of their matches. On court 2 Bernstein won a grueling three-set decision, 7-6, 3-6, 7-6. King(1), Petrone(3), and Zhu(4) won their matches easily in two sets. On court 5 Franks had to stay focused at the end but also prevailed in two, 6-4, 7-5.
Implications for Big Ten play and NCAA Championships
In the Big Ten it's all about the fight for second, and Michigan is as competitive as any team in the league. As much as it pains me to say it, this Michigan team will probably not have what it takes to defeat the Ohio State buzzsaw. #3 Ohio is loaded top to bottom like always and will probably overpower Michigan's young team. Even with the somewhat more seasoned teams of a few years back, scoring one or even two points on Ohio represented a fantastic effort on the part of Michigan's players. King, the #6-rated singles player in the nation, defeated two of Ohio's starters at the October Midwest Regional, clipping #2 Blaz Rolo 7-5, 7-5, and #5 Chase Buchanan 5-7, 6-0, 6-3.
Even with King holding down court 1, the rest of the team is very young. King is the only upperclassman on the team. The style of the team has adjusted somewhat with its youth. Power serving is no longer the preferred style of half of the starters, since no one has a dominant or consistent enough power serve. King has the best serve by far on the team. Unfortunately Bernstein and Buzzi have trouble avoiding double faults and hitting their serves at angles designed to force the defenders into difficult shots. True freshmen are playing scored singles matches. The good news is that everyone comes back next year with more experience and weight training. For the moment it's very much a quick-oriented team, much more so than the Maravic-esque long volleys of yesteryear. A smaller team is more vulnerable to being pushed around the court by tall power tennis players. Fortunately LSU did not have the right kind of roster to beat this team. In fact some of their players were serving up multiple double faults even in doubles play.
Michigan will get some nice wins and drop some close calls on the road while looking to extend their six-year NCAA Championships streak. 13-11 qualified the team in 2010-11. Penciling in likely wins covers Hawaii, MSU(terrible), @Minnesota(lost to LSU 4-0), Purdue, Nebraska, Iowa at 10-2. Michigan would need only 3 more wins to match its record from last year. With some decent breaks Michigan can qualify for the NCAA championships for the seventh year.
Appendix A: NCAA Scoring Matches, Odds and Ends
In NCAA men's college tennis serving, there is no such thing as a "let". If the ball hits the net and then falls in the service box, it counts as a legal serve and must be returned. For the most part this inexplicable rule keeps a few net-kissed top-spin shots in bounds but there are occasional inadvertant drop shot "serves" created that amount to free points for the server. So it goes.
Scoring matches (regular season)
Begin with three doubles courts. Each plays a single set to 8 winning by 2 or tiebreaker at 8-8. Whichever school wins 2 out of the 3 doubles matches gets one match point. After a 20-minute break the 6 singles matches begin. Each singles match is worth one match point for the team. Whichever team scores 4 points first wins the match, although 7-0 routs are not uncommon.
Singles matches can be two sets long, two sets with a super-tiebreaker if the game goes to three sets after the outcome of the match has been decided, or three sets if the outcome of the match has not been decided. The sets are played to 6, win by 2, tiebreak at 6-6.
Scoring matches (Tournament)
Same basic structure as regular season scoring matches. However, when two courts from the same team win in doubles, doubles play is over on the spot. This can sometimes cut the third game short. Singles matches are played until one team scores 4 points, at which point all singles matches remaining are called off. The idea is to help preserve the health of the players with an extended four- or five-day tournament schedule.
Appendix B: Chart? Chart! Standings as of February 7, 2012.
Out of the many fine alumni who have posted or visited this website over the years, I consider myself privileged to have been lucky enough to study a major, clarinet performance, that called for me to spend most of my time on North Campus. Many words have been said about the fine night life, restaurants, and other amenities available on Central Campus. This diary is not about those parts of the city. I'm talking about driving up Division for a little ways, crossing the bridge, and heading further north past Maiden Lane and experiencing the fun times to be had there.
For one thing, North Campus has trees, and snow, and snow and trees. Walking to class is like walking through beautiful parkland. There are many hills and valleys which helps make the walk more physically demanding. There are paths through the woods where frequently groundhogs, deer, squirrels, cats, and other creatures can be seen prowling around. I had a garden senior year and took pride in clearing out brush and improving the property bit by bit, even if only temporarily. One winter the trees on North Campus were completely encapsulated in ice and glittered in the sunlight like living icicles.
In the summer these same trails are great for biking and running, or during the winter if you bundle up well. I and my friends would run through the engineering campus, Northwood III and beyond, and bike up Nixon into farm country. The hills at the Huron Parkway golf course are great for sledding in the winter, and Qdoba is just a little ways further down the road. There is also the North Campus Recreational Building (NCRB) behind Bursley for anyone with an Mcard and a desire to pump iron or play raquetball.
In May the pools open at Huron Towers and Highlands, the two main apartment complexes closest to North Campus. As long as you play it cool and know some of the residents at the respective apartment complexes it is OK to swim in the pools, and the pools are well-maintained and deep. There is also a large athletics complex on Fuller Road where intramural soccer and softball are played.
When not traipsing through the woods, North Campusers love to get together for parties both tame and wild. One great way to meet people was coming together for a game of Mafia and wine before carpooling out to play laser tag and video games. I met some of my friends that way. We also took advantage of whatever DVDs or downloads were available—The Office, Dexter, 30 Rock, Family Guy—and bonded over those shows while serving up soup and sandwiches. My Nintendo 64 skills never got better than they got in college.
Not everyone is an engineer, a musician, or a visual artist. But for those Michigan students lucky enough to spend an extended period of time in North Campus, I consider the experience second to none, and I hope to see some of you “up north” soon.