On Friday, a glimpse of hope shone through for the No. 7 Michigan men’s tennis team after it captured the doubles point. But all efforts were quickly dimmed by No. 2 TCU’s dominance on the singles courts. With three different courts going to tiebreaker rounds in the first set, and the Wolverines subsequently losing all of them, a comeback was an insurmountable task for Michigan to pull out the miraculous victory to continue in the NCAA Tournament.
Not only does this loss mean the departure from the tournament, but, arguably worse for the Wolverines, the end of fifth-year Andrew Fenty, fifth-year Patrick Maloney and senior Ondrej Styler’s careers. All three were selected for the NCAA Individual Tournament, which gives a small insight into the production they gave to Michigan this year. With their departures comes the cost of irreplaceable skill and leadership.
“On paper we’re going to be lacking some talent,” sophomore Gavin Young said. “I think it’s really going to come down to how gritty of a team we are and how deep we dig down. This team next year is going to have the same amount of heart and the same amount of belief. And with that belief and grit we can really make a run.”
Transposing that belief and grit to the Wolverines is Young who is stepping into a leadership role in the youth-filled team — and for good reason. The 6-foot-4 Apple Valley, Minnesota, native has a very deep skill set that has developed over his last two years with Michigan. He’s the other half of the doubles duo with Fenty selected in the NCAA Individual Tournament and is an alternate for the singles. Boasting a 22-12 singles record and 27-8 doubles record this season, it’s clear that he is a great candidate to lead this program back to another NCAA tournament.
Along with established veterans of the program — junior Nino Ehrenschneider, sophomore Will Cooksey and junior Jacob Bickersteth — Young is ready to overcome the deficit left by the departing stars of the program.
Even with the returning members of the team, there will be quite a challenge for the new generation of leaders. The combination of motivated youth along with leaders ready to take control is a great sign for the team, but isn’t going to come without hard work.
Young still has good reason to be excited about next year’s team. Freshman Bjorn Swenson, freshman Mert Oral and freshman Nicholas Steiglehner were all high school stars, and are ready to make a name for themselves on the big stage. With a couple more incoming recruits, Michigan is poised to make another deep run in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for some of the young guys to step up and show what they have,” Young said. “It’s going to be really cool to see what some of these younger guys can do. … We’ll be back for sure.”
With Young’s leadership and a willing and ready roster, the Wolverines have a very exciting future ahead of them. Whether it’s the older established leaders of the team or the newcomers with everything still to prove, Michigan has all the right tools to return to the high caliber of tennis it played this year. And, with the right combination of talent and hard work, the Wolverines could take another shot at it all.