In the next month, seven different Michigan teams will take to the court, lake, course, or pool for the first time this season. While your regularly scheduled recaps will return Thursday, this special all-previews edition is your guide to all of the sports that compete for the majority of the school year.
The Michigan Men’s Tennis team maintained their recent consistency in the 2018-19 season, going 18-9 and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in Adam Steinberg’s five years as head coach. Playing host to the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines defeated Indiana 4-1 in the quarterfinals, with a win in the doubles point and three singles wins. In the semis, however, they fell victim to an Ohio State team that would go on to win the Big Ten and make the Elite Eight. The Wolverines beat Dartmouth in the Opening Round of the NCAA Tournament, before falling to Baylor on the Bear’s home court. The Wolverines would finish ranked #19.
The season wasn’t completely over after team play, however, as Andrew Fenty qualified for the NCAA Singles Tournament, where he lost in the first round. While the quick exit might sound like a disappointing result, its important to note that Fenty was a freshman, and had among the best seasons a Michigan freshman had ever had. Fenty was named ITA Rookie of the Year (a national award), and will anchor the team in the coming year. Another notable returner is sophomore Patrick Maloney, who compiled a 16-10 record. While the Wolverines lose Myles Schlet and his 14-9 record, they return much of their firepower. If Fenty maintains form, the Wolverines could be looking at a very exciting season.
Team matches are best-of-seven, with six three-set singles matches and one doubles point, awarded to the winner of two of three separate one-set doubles matches. It is also played without advantage, so at 40-40 next point wins. The fall season is largely focused on singles and doubles play, with team play not starting until January. The Michigan men will not play competitive matches on-campus in 2019, but we will still be tracking singles play in this space.
Wolverine Women’s tennis has been dominant of late, and last season was no exception. Michigan swept the Big Ten titles, earning an 11-0 conference record (20-6 overall) followed by the Big Ten Tournament championship. This was their second straight conference tournament title, and second regular season title in three years. Such a strong performance earned them hosting rights for the first two rounds of the Big Ten Tournament, where they dominated Illinois-Chicago, and then Kentucky. Unfortunately, those wins sent them to Athens, GA, where they fell to one-seed Georgia. Michigan ended the season ranked #16.
Where the men’s team was led by new blood, the women’s team featured a pair of departing legends. Kate Fahey graduated as the all-time Wolverine career leader in single wins with 132, while Brienne Minor finished her career 7th on that list, including a singles national championship. While both suffered early exits in the NCAA Singles Tournament, together they ran all the way to the NCAA Doubles Tournament finals, falling to a pair from UCLA. This year the Wolverines will again look to to Seniors as their impact players. Chiara Lommer also qualified for the NCAA Singles Tournament, bowing out in the second round. She’ll join Guiliana Pairone, who compiled a 10-0 individual conference record, in leading the Wolverines back to the NCAA Tournament.
Like the men, women’s tennis will play in singles tournaments until 2020. However, the Wolverines will host the Wolverine Open in late September. Tennis is a blast live and admission is always free, so I highly encourage keeping an eye on the schedule.
In under a quarter-century since the rowing program was established at Michigan, coach Mark Rothstein has built a quiet powerhouse, producing five Big Ten Championships and 10 top-5 finishes at the NCAAs. Last season Michigan was able to win its first Big Ten title since 2012, and finished third at the NCAAs for the second time in three years. Michigan swept both Varsity Eight-person races at the Big Ten Championships, and won bronze in both Varsity Eights races at the NCAA Championships. Michigan’s First Varsity Fours finished in fourth in the NCAA Meet.
For the Big Ten Championship, each team had up to four separate eight-person crews, with the top two called “First Varsity Eights” and “Second Varsity Eights,” and the bottom two called First and Second “Novice Eights”. Four-person boats simply had three varsity teams. More points were at stake in the First team race of each discipline, with the least points being at stake in the Second Novice Eights. Different meets vary slightly, and there are no novice crews at the NCAA Meet.
Michigan will lose three rowers from its 1V8s, while coxswain Charlotte Powers should reprise her role. Michigan’s meets all take place on Belleville Lake, and they will scrimmage against Eastern Michigan this Sunday.
Michigan Men’s Golf will be under new leadership in 2019, as Chris Witten has moved on after eight years. Witten led the team to his best performance at the Big Ten Championships, where the Wolverines finished fourth in his final year. Taking over will be former Illinois assistant Chris Barlow. Illinois is a Big Ten powerhouse, winning ten of the previous eleven Big Ten Championships (Minnesota won in 2014). Barlow was an Illinios coach for the final five of those Championships, and the Wolverines will hope he can bring some of that magic to Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines performance at the Big Ten Tournament was led by Junior Charlie Pilon, who finished third individually with a 3-round score of 213, good for a +3 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club (the winners tied at +2). Michigan can also count on Senior Brett Ito and Junior Henry Spring, who each led the Wolverines in two events last season. A notable departure is Nick Carlson, who golf fans may remember from his run to the semifinals at the 2016 U.S. Amateur Open, in front of a hometown crowd at Oakland Hills.
Michigan Women’s Golf had an up-and-down season last year, ultimately finishing in 7th at the Big Ten Championships. Michigan hadn’t been to the NCAA Championship as a team since 2001 (their only appearance) when coach Jan Dowling took over in 2013. They qualified in both 2016 and 2017 and will look to return after two years out.
The Wolverines are a young team, and were last year led by Sophomore Ashley Lau. Lau qualified as an individual to the NCAA Regionals in East Lansing, where she finished 47th, missing out on qualifying for the Championships as an individual by six strokes. Her 74.16 season scoring average is the best by a Freshman in Michigan history. That average was not far ahead of Junior Ashley Kim’s 74.86. The young squad will look to improve on their previous season, and get back to team Regional qualification.
Both the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams came just shy of Big Ten Championships, each placing second at their respective Big Ten Championships. While swim meets happen almost exclusively simultaneously, the two teams compete separately. On the men’s side the Wolverines went 7-1 in dual meets and four swimmers won individual Big Ten Championships. Felix Auböck went on to win the individual National Championship in the 1650 Freestyle. Despite this, the men finished 13th at the NCAA Championships. The women fared better at the NCAA Championships, coming in third after a season where they went 8-0 in duals. While no women Wolverines posted individual National Championship times, strong medal performances from many different individuals, including three medals in relays and three top-six performances from Maggie MacNeil, bolstered team scoring and sent them to the podium as a team.
Auböck returns for the Wolverines, and will seek his fourth Big Ten title in both the 500 and 1650 Free. Senior Charlie Swanson returns from a gold medal in the 400 IM at this summers Pan-American games, representing the US, while Junior Ricardo Vargas won three freestyle bronze medals for Mexico at the same event. MacNeil earned Canada a gold medal in the 100 Butterfly (and added two bronzes for good measure) at the 2019 FINA World Championships. The event also featured several alums and an incoming Wolverine, South African Freshman Mairella Venter, who competed in the 100 Backstroke and the 4x100 Medley Relay.