Week #6: U-M to Start Big Ten Play at Michigan State Wednesday
Michelle Sulahian

Feb. 21, 2012

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Wednesday, Feb. 22 -- at Michigan State (East Lansing, Mich.), 3 p.m.

The No. 11-ranked University of Michigan women's tennis team (5-3) opens up Big Ten Conference play this week, traveling to East Lansing, Mich., to face intrastate rival Michigan State on Wednesday (Feb. 22) at 3 p.m. at the MSU Indoor Tennis Facility. Michigan has won 10 in a row against the Spartans, including a 6-1 decision in Ann Arbor last season.

Big Ten Opener For the Defending Champs -- Wednesday's match against Michigan State marks the beginning of Big Ten action for the Wolverines, who are the two-time defending Big Ten champions after posting 10-0 league records in both 2010 and 2011. Under fifth-year head coach Ronni Bernstein, the Wolverines are 38-2 in Big Ten action. U-M went 56-4 in singles last season, headlined by Brooke Bolender and Whitney Taney's perfect 10-0 conference marks. The Wolverines won all 10 doubles points last season en route to a 27-3 doubles record during conference play.

A Look at Michigan State -- The Spartans enter Wednesday's match with a 6-1 record, with their only loss coming to Akron. MSU has not left the state of Michigan in 2012, playing every dual match at home, and hosted two of four fall tournament appearances in East Lansing. Michigan leads the all-time series, 43-17, winning the past 10 matches. U-M kicked off Big Ten action last season against the Spartans, coming away with a 6-1 victory.

Where We Rank -- The Wolverines fell a position to the No. 11 spot in the latest ITA rankings, released last Thursday (Feb. 16), but boast four individual singles rankings and a pair of doubles rankings. Freshman Emina Bektas jumped to No. 5 singles listing -- the highest individual ranking in Michigan program history -- after entering the 2012 schedule at No. 36. Sophomores Brooke Bolender and Sam Critser check in at No. 56 and No. 62, while junior Mimi Nguyen climbed to the No. 88 singles ranking. On the doubles side, Michigan's duo of Bektas and Bolender moved up to No. 19 and Nguyen and senior Michelle Sulahian debuted at No. 59. [ ITA Rankings ]

Dual Match Format --This weekend's dual matches will be contests for the best-of-seven team points. The dual will begin with three doubles matches consisting of eight-game pro sets. The team that wins two of these three matches will enter the singles competition with one of seven points. After a brief intermission, six singles matches will be played. Each singles match will be the best-of-three tie-break sets and worth one point towards the team competition. The overall dual match will be decided when one team secures four total points. Matches in progress when the dual match is clinched will be played to completion.


Quick Hits
• Michigan State marks the Wolverines' first unranked opponent since their season opener against Western Michigan. U-M has faced top-20 ranked opponents in each of its last five dual appearances.

• Freshmen Emina Bektas and Sarah Lee boast perfect 7-0 dual records. Both had one match abandoned at the ITA National Indoors.

• Bektas carries a 10-match win streak, covering every singles match of the 2012 calendar year. Included in her winning streak are six decisions over nationally ranked opposition.

• Michigan's No. 1 doubles pairing of Bektas and sophomore Brooke Bolender own a four-match winning streak.

• Sophomore Sam Critser returned to competition at the ITA National Indoor Championships, playing with senior Michelle Sulahian at the No. 3 doubles position. Critster missed the Wolverines' first five duals with injury.

Last Time Out -- The Wolverines posted a 1-2 record at the prestigious ITA National Indoor Championship, opening the dual tournament with a 4-0 shutout against No. 15 Clemson before falling to No. 3 Duke (4-0) and No. 6 Georgia (5-2). Freshmen Emina Bektas and Sarah Lee posted 2-0 singles records, while U-M's top doubles team of Bektas and sophomore Brooke Bolender went 3-0. [ Recaps: Clemson | Duke | Georgia ]

No. 2 to Tango -- The Wolverines dropped the nation's No. 2 singles player and No. 2 doubles pairing in their ITA National Indoors finale against Georgia. Freshman Emina Bektas knocked off the Bulldogs' Chelsey Gullickson, 6-2, 7-5, behind an early break in the first set and late break in the second. With the performance, she avenged an earlier-season loss to Gullickson, the 2010 NCAA singles champion and a three-time All-American. Bektas and sophomore Brooke Bolender also claimed an 8-5 victory over Georgia's pairing of Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist, the nation's No. 2 doubles team.

Fabulous Freshman -- Freshman Emina Bektas has won each of her last 10 appearances, earning six wins over ranked opponents, including five in the nation's top 20, over the stretch. Bektas, who owns an overall 10-3 record against ranked opponents this season, is the first freshman to play at the No. 1 singles position under Ronni Bernstein's tenure at Michigan. Her No. 5 listing in the latest ITA singles rankings marks the highest individual ranking for a Wolverine player in program history. Denise Muresan ended the 2010-11 season with the No. 6 listing.

Not For the Week -- Freshman Emina Bektas garnered her fourth Big Ten Athlete of the Week accolade of the season -- and third in five weeks -- last Tuesday (Feb. 13) in recognition of her weekend effort at the ITA National Indoors. Only Chisako Sugiyama has earned more weekly conference citations in Michigan program history; Sugiyama claimed six Athlete of the Week nods between 2007-09.

Double Trouble -- Michigan has lost the doubles point in five of its last six duals and owns a 2-3 record when giving up the initial point. Conversely, the Wolverines are a perfect 3-0 when claiming the first point. U-M lost just three doubles points during 2011, going 0-3 when failing to secure the first point of the match.

Leader of the Wolverines -- Head coach Ronni Bernstein is in her fifth year in Ann Arbor, compiling an 90-25 overall record and 38-2 Big Ten mark in her first four years. The Wolverines have strung together the best two-year span in program history during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, going 24-5 in both campaigns while winning two Big Ten championships. For her efforts, Bernstein has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year and ITA Midwest Region Coach of the Year in both seasons. Teryn Ashley-Fitch is in her sixth year at Michigan and was promoted to associate head coach last summer after earning ITA Midwest Assistant Coach of the Year honors in 2010.

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Friday, March 2 -- at Hawai'i (Honolulu, Hawaii), 3 p.m. HST
Friday, March 9 -- at Texas A&M (College Station, Texas), 6 p.m. CST
Sunday, March 11 -- at Texas (Austin, Texas), 11 a.m. CST

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423