The Wolverine

June-July 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: WOMEN'S TENNIS spot two weeks earlier — the Big Ten championship falling on her shoulders when she and Purdue's Lynda Xepoleas battled for the deciding point in the conference tournament finals April 29. Bolender suffered a heartbreaking 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5) decision and watched the Boilermakers celebrate as she took comfort in her teammates' embrace. Three-Peat: U-M Reaches Sweet 16 For Third Straight Year Sophomore Brooke Bolender had been in the same exact propelling the Maize and Blue to a 4-3 win over the Aggies in an NCAA regional. "We have huge scoreboards and I knew how the team was doing, knew it was coming down to my match," Bolender said. "It was actually exciting. I wasn't anxious or scared. I wanted to win for my teammates, and to pull it out — I hit a forehand crosscourt and she missed long and I just screamed and the girls jumped on top of me. 4-0 in the opening round of the Ann Arbor Regional, and im- proved to 7-6 against ranked teams with their decision over No. 19 Texas A&M. They also claimed their third consecutive regional title (to go along with three straight Big Ten regular- season championships) and will meet No. 2 Florida in the Sweet 16 May 17 in Athens, Ga. "We're not just here for the experience," said Bernstein, The Wolverines had previously dispatched Illinois-Chicago " who arrived with her team three days before the match with the Gators to adapt to the Georgia heat. "We have ev- erything to gain and nothing to lose. Florida is the favorite, we're the underdog, but we're going to fight and compete, and give everything we can because we want to win. "The first year we made it, we were sort of shell-shocked when we got to Georgia, just happy to be there. But this group isn't like that. They're excited, but they're not satisfied just to be in the Sweet 16. The goal is to beat Florida, and take that next step as a program." Regardless of how they fare against the Gators, the Maize and Blue took an important step this season, proving expec- tations will not change with roster departures and additions. The Wolverines graduated four key seniors in 2011, and their starting singles lineup against A&M included a sophomore and three freshmen, in addition to a junior and senior. Michi- gan had a built-in excuse if it regressed some this season, but instead, U-M continued to play at a high level. "I think our success this season shows the growth of this program," Bernstein said. "We're going to lose kids, every team does, and last year four seniors, including three start- ers, but we brought in great players, and we're going to continue to bring in top recruits so that we can compete year after year in the Big Ten and nationally. "With the players on this team, the freshmen, we have huge potential in the future, and can get even better. The future is bright, but we really don't want to keep 'waiting until next year. Sophomore Brooke Bolender pulled out a three-set win in the deciding match of U-M's victory over Texas A&M, sending the Wolverines to the Sweet 16. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS she stood on the baseline in a three-set match against Texas A&M's Nazari Urbina — a singles victory clinching a Sweet 16 berth for either team — Bolender was forced to step into the spotlight again May 12. "As a coach, your responsibility is to the entire team, but in Hers was the kind of loss that can have lasting effect, so as moving on to the next round." ' This team is focused on beating Florida, and season, going 0-3 in such contests, and has lost seven straight to top-10 foes dating back to the 2009 season; U-M last beat an opponent of such caliber when it knocked off No. 4 Northwestern on April 3, 2009. However, UF is not in- vincible, and the Wolverines believe in themselves. "We definitely do not want our season to be over with, Michigan has struggled against top-10 competition this that moment, all I could think about was her — you know how great of a teammate she is, how much she cares and you don't want her to feel that way again," fifth-year head coach Ronni Bernstein said. Bolender lost the first set, but won the second and closed out the match in convincing fashion, 6-2, in the third set, Bolender said. "Florida is the defending national champion, and we're the underdog, but that's why you play the match. We're going in with no pressure, no expectations on our backs, and if we play like that, play with competitiveness, swing hard and give it our best … we've come very close to beating the top teams and this would be a great time to pull it off. It would be an upset, but we believe we can do it. — Michael Spath " " JUNE/JULY 2012 THE WOLVERINE 69

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