Thanks for writing this up - much easier to understand than the stuff on mgoblue
spoiler alert: i linked this
#8 Michigan 4 beats #4 Northwestern 4-3
The Michigan women’s tennis team finally ended an incredibly long losing streak on Saturday. After 13 years (and probably more than 20 straight losses) they beat Northwestern. Now, that might not sound very impressive but the Northwestern women’s tennis team has been one of the best teams in the nation for several years and has absolutely dominated the Big Ten.
Northwestern has won the Big Ten tournament 11 years in a row, been the regular season champion 9 of those 11 years including the last 6 and won the Indoor National Championship the last 2 years. Perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is that Northwestern had won 81 straight Big Ten duals, dating all the way back to April 2004. This is all a way of saying that it was a huge win for Michigan.
Just like Butler is not a true Cinderella story, this is far from a David vs. Goliath situation. In 1997, the last year the Wolverines beat the Wildcats, UM won the Big Ten. Right after that, they hit a bit of a rough patch until about the mid 2000s and were one of the worst teams in the conference. They steadily improved and the past 4 or 5 years have easily been the number 2 team in the conference. In fact, the past 5 championship games in the Big Ten Tournament have been Michigan losing to Northwestern.
Having witnessed something this historic I decided to write up a recap. I know a lot more about Northwestern's tennis program than Michigan's so if anyone has input please share.
NCAA tennis matches consist of 1 doubles point decided by the best of 3 doubles matches (one “pro-set” to 8) and 6 singles matches (best of 3 normal sets) worth 1 point each.
Michigan started off strong by winning the #3 doubles 8-4 in a quick set. The other two doubles matches were much closer. The #1 match was still on serve 5-4 when the 3s finished. From that point, Michigan managed to win a lot of close games with multiple deuces and finished 8-5 in order to clinch the point. For good measure the #2 women won in a tiebreak 9-8 (7-5) to get the doubles sweep.
As an indicator of how close the #1 and #2 matches were, the doubles took about an hour and a half instead of the usual 50 to 60 minutes.
Winning the doubles point put the pressure on Northwestern because they had to win 4 out of the 6 singles matches to beat Michigan. UM only had to manage a split.
At #1 singles Michigan’s Denise Muresan, ranked #25 in the nation, faced Maria Mosolova, the #13 player in the nation. Mosolova has an unfortunate tendency of imploding if she gets behind in a match and it happened again here. After losing the first set 3-6, Mosolova couldn’t manage to win another game and Michigan won 6-3, 6-0.
The #3 singles finished second with Northwestern dominating from start to finish. After that was the #6 singles. Northwestern’s Stacey Lee was losing 2-5 in the first set when she went on a 12 game winning streak to win her match at 7-5 6-0. This tied the overall score up at 2-2.
At this point the #4 singles still hadn’t finished the first set (read on for more) while Michigan’s #5 had won the first set in a tiebreak. In the #2 singles match Michigan won the first set handily 6-3 but Northwestern came back and won the second set just as dominantly. As this match was heading into the third set, the #5 singles finished with Michigan winning to make the score 3-2. If Michigan won either of the 2 remaining matches they would take down the juggernaut.
Back to #4 singles a matchup of both team’s freshmen stars, it was almost an opposite of the #6 match on the court right next to it. Northwestern’s Kate Turvy was winning 5-2 in the first set and it seemed like Michigan’s Mimi Nguyen had no hope. In the next 5 incredibly close games, Nguyen won them all after going to multiple deuces each. She did not go on a 12 game streak but she did win the second set 6-3 knowing the whole time that she could clinch the victory with her play. If she has a good match tomorrow (against Wisconsin) look for her to be the Big Ten player of the week. Otherwise it will probably be Muresan from the #1 singles.
The #2 singles had become dead rubber, but Northwestern finished it out 3-6 6-3 6-3. Northwestern’s #2 player has what is probably one of the best serves in the NCAA so it is no shame that Michigan couldn’t close out that match. One side note about this match is that Michigan’s player has a very odd service motion and seemed to foot fault on every serve.
What it all means
It was a day of great tennis which is what you hope for when the #8 team faces the #4 team in the nation. It lasted over 4 hours and had suspense and excitement throughout. By winning today, Michigan has probably claimed the Regular Season title. They will almost certainly see Northwestern in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament. Anyone in the Iowa City area on May 2 should try to make it and watch the rematch.
For possibly more readable and accurate recaps you can visit
Thanks for writing this up - much easier to understand than the stuff on mgoblue
I consider any win over a NU women's team to be great, but this one has a little extra icing on top. Thanks for the write up. Sounds like some fairly epic deuces in some of those matches. Good to hear Michigan came out on the right end of a few of them.
Also too bad you only get one point for winning the doubles regardless of sweep or 2 of 3.
I agree about the importance of a win over NU. They have been a quietly above-average team in football the last 15 years, but what their women's teams have done is pretty amazing. Their lacrosse and tennis teams have been absolutely dominant but their softball, crew and fencing among others has also been pretty darn good.
Northwestern is back to their winning ways, beating MSU 6-1 this morning. Michigan had an almost as dominating 6-1 win over Wisconsin. Noone else in the Big Ten is near their levels of excellence. As I wrote, I fully expect the Big Ten Tournament championship game to be a rematch.
The doubles point is interesting to me also. It is worth only 1 point so a team could choose to focus all of their practice time on singles and try to win that way. Both UM and NU seem to put a lot of emphasis on doubles though. They both have multiple ranked teams and usually win the doubles point in their matches.
It makes me think of the first goal in a hockey game. It's almost certainly not going to be the game winner, it might only stand for a minute, the other team might get a lead within the period, but it's still really important and sets the tone for the rest of the game. Michigan was 23-4 when scoring first and 2-14-1 not scoring first this year. Which is a pretty clear trend. I would even go so far as to say that one of the problems with the team, for most of the season, was that it couldn't get off to a good start. Most Michigan teams I remember have come out flying and were able to get a goal in the first couple minutes of the period most games. This year, for whatever reason, not so much. So I would say that the doubles point is mostly a momentum thing, to get everyone mentally on top of things and build confidence.
it's more important in tennis because you always know exactly how many points are available. The first goal in hockey is important, but it could be the only goal, one of 15, who knows what. When there are a limited number of points available, it's a big deal to take the first one, perhaps even more so if a) you weren't expected to take it or b) you look to be at least even strength in singles.
Love to see the writeups on other sports like baseball and tennis. Thanks for sharing.
Man, this really brought me back to my high school tennis days
I hope you mean that in a good way and not some sort of PTSD flashback. :)
I enjoyed it thoroughly and had no idea that our W Tennis was that good. I'm definitely going to try and make it to a couple matches now.
Great! I encourage everyone to go to college tennis matches. I've gone to a bunch at Northwestern the last couple years and they're a lot of fun.
College matches have a great atmosphere. With 6 matches going on at once there is lots of cheering and it gets pretty rowdy.