University of Michigan
Taylor Linton | March 21, 2019
In the buildup to the 2019 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships, set to be held at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., for the first time May 16-25, USTA.com will feature some of the nation's top teams in this "NCAA Contenders" series. Next up are the University of Michigan women.
The University of Michigan women entered the 2018 Big Ten regular season on the back of a five-match losing streak. But resiliency has always been a key factor for the Wolverines and head coach Ronni Bernstein, never more so than last spring.
Last season, their toughness helped flip that losing streak into a 10-1 regular-season conference record, good for a seventh regular-season title in Bernstein’s tenure with the Maize and Blue. Now in her 12th season, Bernstein has led the program to a pair of Big Ten tournament crowns—including one in 2018—and seven NCAA Sweet 16 appearances.ADVERTISEMENT
Senior Kate Fahey, the 2018 Big Ten Athlete of the Year, looks back on last year’s conference tournament victory as one of her proudest collegiate tennis moments. After losing to Northwestern during the season—their only Big Ten blemish on the year—the Wolverines dismissed their top-seeded rivals, 4-3, in the conference final.
“Winning the Big Ten tournament as underdogs really showed our resilience and showed how tough we are. We never give up as a team,” she said.
Fahey has also seen individual successes as a collegiate player, especially in 2018-19, her final season as a Wolverine. This past September, she won the ITA Midwest regional singles and doubles titles, taking the doubles trophy with fellow Michigan senior Brienne Minor.
Minor (pictured above) faced a couple of knee procedures during the fall of 2017 that kept her away from matches, but when she returned to the lineup in February 2018, nothing slowed her down. Minor went 8-1 in Big Ten action, finishing the Big Ten tournament at 3-1 to help the team bring home the title.
In 2017, Minor became the first African-American woman to win the prestigious Division I singles title since the NCAA began recognizing women’s tennis in 1982. Although she has had many pivotal moments in her tennis career, two college memories stand out as highlights.
“One was definitely when I won the national championship,” she said. “And then my second was during my freshman year, when [Ronit Yurovsky] clinched the match against Miami in the NCAAs that brought us to the Elite 8. That’s the best the program has done in the history at the NCAAs.”
Both players are beginning to feel nostalgia as the season flies by and their time as Wolverines comes towards an end.
“I think what I’ll miss most is just being on a team,” Fahey said. “I’m going to play pro and it’s not the same; it’s similar to juniors, you’re playing for yourself. Playing on a team, you’re playing for something bigger than yourself. When you have the block ‘M’ on your shirt and you’re surrounded by your teammates, you think less about playing for yourself and thinking more about getting a point on the board for your team.”
Minor agrees: “There are a variety of different personalities on our team, so it’s interesting to see how we all mesh together,” she said. “We get along well and we all want what’s best for the team and each individual on the team.”
It may be the last season for both women at Michigan, but their campaign won’t end before the Wolverines get the opportunity to make program history at the NCAA Championships at the USTA National Campus in May.
For more on the NCAA Championships, including ticket information, visit the USTA National Campus website.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan)