Feb. 27, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
The Michigan State men's tennis team will travel to rival Michigan on Friday for its Big Ten opener. The 5-5 Spartans come into the matchup unranked, while the 5-4 Wolverines are No. 26. Play is set to begin at 6 p.m., in Ann Arbor, Mich., from inside the Varsity Tennis Courts.
The Spartans are coming off a win last weekend against Big East foe, Xavier, by a final of 6-1. MSU jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the claiming the doubles point for the sixth time in 10 matches this season. MSU is 5-1 when winning the doubles point. The Spartans went on to secure five of the six singles matches to cruise through the match. Seniors Drew Lied and Aaron Pfister picked up wins on courts one and two, respectively. Lied upped his season record to 6-3 and Pfister improved to 6-4.
Overall in singles this season, MSU holds a combined 34-19 record and has at least a .500 record on five of the six courts. In doubles, MSU is 17-10 overall.
Big Ten Road Opener
Friday's match at Michigan will mark the first match in Big Ten play for the Spartans this season. In Big Ten road openers, MSU is 3-7 all-time under Coach Orlando. MSU has dropped its last seven road openers dating back to March 18, 2000, when it dropped a 6-1 decision to Minnesota.
Friday's match will also be the third time under Coach Gene Orlando that MSU has opened up conference play on the road at Michigan. MSU is 1-1 against Michigan in Big Ten road openers, winning 5-2 on Jan. 16, 1994, and losing 6-1 on March 21, 2010.
Under 10th-year head coach Bruce Berque, Michigan enters Friday's matchup with a 5-4 record and a No. 26 national ranking. U-M has two ranked wins on its resume, including defeating then-No. 11 Mississippi on Jan. 25 and then-No. 18 Vanderbilt on Feb. 23.
Junior Vlad Stefan has played the majority of the matches for the Wolverines on the top singles court and holds a 1-5 record. In fact, U-M is just 1-8 on the top singles court. U-M has fared best on court six, with a 6-2 record buoyed by senior Barrett Franks' 3-1 record on that court. U-M is a combined 25-28 in singles play, with winning records on three of the six courts.
Junior Alex Petrone is ranked No. 113 nationally and is a combined 5-4 on the season seeing time on courts one, two and three.
In doubles, seniors Franks and Alex Buzzi are 5-3 on the top court. Franks and Buzzi are ranked No. 17 in the nation in doubles. U-M is a combined 14-7 in doubles, with the tandem of Shaun Bernstein and Kevin Wong accounting for a 6-0 record on court three. Bernstein and Wong are ranked No. 58 in the nation in doubles.
MSU came close to defeating Michigan in last year's meeting in East Lansing but ultimately fell, 4-3. MSU won the doubles point and held a 3-2 edge at one point in the match but could not hold on. MSU lost all four of its singles matches in three sets, and won both of its singles matches in straight sets.
"It's a big rivalry, but to make it a rivalry you've got to win sometimes," Orlando said. "They've had the best of us but we're looking forward to making a strong run at them and hopefully getting a big win. Last year we had some opportunities and we let it slip. We know that our level is better this year and it should be another great match."
During his tenure, head coach Gene Orlando has placed an emphasis on recruiting and winning with Michigan athletes. This year is no different, as six of the 10 players on the roster hail from the Mitten State. Michiganders on this year's squad include senior Aaron Pfister, juniors Harry Jadun and Doug Zade, sophomores Paul Heeder and John Patrick Mullane, and freshman Brett Forman.
In fact, during Coach Orlando's 23 Spartan teams he's fielded, 14 of those teams have had rosters in which at least 45 percent of the roster is from Michigan.
"Bee Forms" Continues to Win
Nicknamed "Bee Forms," freshman Brett Forman has begun his Spartan career undefeated. Seven matches into his freshman campaign, Forman is a perfect seven-for-seven on the singles court. Forman has spent the majority of his matches on the fifth court, but has also competed on the fourth court as well. He has shown to be a steady winner and competitor this season with some of his wins on the fifth court including defeating then-No. 29 Notre Dame and then-No. 34 Tulsa.
Forman is also partners with senior Aaron Pfister in the alleys. The duo is 5-3 this season, including a win over then-No. 34 Tulsa.
Of all 32 freshmen in the Big Ten, Forman is tied for third with seven wins, trailing second place by one win and first place by four wins. Among all freshmen who have competed in at least four matches, Forman sits alone as he is the lone unbeaten.
In fact, of all players in the Big Ten who have competed in at least five matches, Forman is one of five players who are currently undefeated.
Big Ten Rankings
Conference play will again be a gauntlet this season as the Big Ten has 11 of its 12 members ranked in the top 61 in the nation. Ohio State was recently moved up to the No. 1 ranking in the polls released Feb. 18 after winning the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship Feb. 16. Illinois is also ranked No. 7 and Penn State has moved all the way up to No. 34 after being unranked in the initial Jan. 2 poll.
"The Big Ten has continued to get better," Orlando said. "I think it's actually helped our program get better as well. That's what's so great about being in a great conference is you get to play some of the best teams in the country. You have to raise your bar to be competitive."
Even though the Big Ten is stacked, Coach Orlando is confident in his team and its ability to be able to make a run at the program's first Big Ten title since 1967.
"I feel like they believe they can win no matter who they play," Orlando said. "Not with being cocky or anything like that. They know that they're in every match and they have what it takes inside of them, it's just about us bringing it out."
When the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll was released Feb. 25, MSU fell out of the rankings. MSU had previously appeared in 28 straight polls, dating back to April 3, 2012. MSU will have ample opportunities to work back into the rankings as 13 of its final 14 matches of the season will be against ranked opponents. MSU is currently 0-5 against ranked foes this season.
MSU will return to play March 8 as it travels to Boston, Mass., over the university's spring break to take on No. 30 Harvard.