The Michigan women's tennis team's standing for an NCAA Tournament bid never really was in doubt.
But to win the Big Ten tournament over the weekend was a significant achievement, nonetheless, considering the
Wolverines had made the championship match in all 10 of head coach Ronni Bernstein's previous seasons but only won the tournament once, in 2015.
"We've been in the finals a lot, and couldn't come through," Bernstein said. "It's definitely exciting, and the way we did it ... they just fought their butts off."
Michigan rallied twice to get the job done, in the semifinals against Illinois, and then in the finals against perennial powerhouse Northwestern.
And both times, it was the same kid who was the last Wolverine standing.
Chiara Lommer, a sophomore from Illinois and Michigan's No. 2 singles player, trailed 3-0 in the decisive third set against Northwestern's Maddie Lipp on Sunday. It wasn't looking good.
Lommer cut it to 4-3, but then fell behind three points in the next game. She scrapped and scrapped and scrapped and eventually won the point on a crosscourt winner to tie it at 4.
She won the set, 6-4, and the celebration was on.
"She's a great competitor," Bernstein said. "The thing about her is, she doesn't take a point off. She's a tough kid to beat.
She doesn't have huge power, but she's gonna make you earn the points, and she just hung in there."
It was Lommer who capped the comeback in the semifinals against Illinois on Saturday at the tournament, held at the University of Minnesota.
After dropping the first set to Illinois' Asuka Kawai, Lommer clawed to a 7-5 victory in the second. The third set was tied at 3, before Lommer took control to win it, 6-3.
Her teammate, junior Brienne Minor of Illinois and Michigan's No. 3 singles player, had to win her match to keep the Wolverines alive, and she did just that to put the ball in Lommer's court.
Lommer's victory secured No. 2 seed Michigan the automatic NCAA Tournament bid, which is Michigan's 17th consecutive appearance in the NCAAs.
Michigan found out Tuesday it will open against Hawaii (12-6) in Palo Alto, Calif., next week. Stanford (18-3) is hosting, and St. John's (17-5) also is in the regional.
Michigan finished the regular season 17-9, but it wasn't a typical smooth-sailing year for the Wolverines, who were dealt several nagging injuries early, amid a tough schedule.
"Midway through the year, you're either like, OK, get the wheels back on track or, you know, it's gonna be a rough sort of year," Bernstein said. "I'm really proud of the girls. They've gained some confidence, got healthy and made a nice run."
Northwestern had won 15 Big Ten tournament championships since the current format began in 1999.
Michigan women's tennis is ranked No. 23 in the nation.
Michigan men's tennis (20-5) is ranked No. 13 and earned its 13th NCAA appearance in the last 14 years, and gets to host a regional next week. It will open against Cleveland State (17-10), and Western Michigan (22-4) and Notre Dame (18-3) round out the regional.
■ Michigan junior midfielder Brent Noseworthy, of Ontario, made first-team All-Big Ten in lacrosse. The Big Ten tournament is Thursday and Saturday at Michigan, but Michigan isn't in the field. Maryland plays Rutgers in the first semifinal Thursday, and Johns Hopkins meets Ohio State in the other semifinal Thursday, with the championship set for 7 Saturday.
The women's tournament also is at Michigan, with Maryland-Johns Hopkins and Northwestern-Penn State in Friday's semifinals, and the championship set for noon Sunday.
■ Detroit Mercy's women's team, after winning a share of the regular-season Southern Conference title, swept the four major awards: redshirt sophomore Kaitlyn Wandelt as offensive player of the year, junior goalkeeper Allison McDonough as defensive player of the year, Meredith Moore as freshman of the year and Laurie Merian as coach of the year. Also earning first-team honors: juniors Lexie Kinmond and Morgan Girardi, and senior Lauren Webley.
Detroit Mercy opens tournament play Thursday night against Mercer in Macon, Ga.
The men's team opens MAAC tournament play Thursday against Monmouth in Long Branch, N.J.
■ Central Michigan sophomore Natalie Karlen, junior Jocelyne Lemay and sophomore Shannon Doyle earned first-team All-Southern Conference recognition. The Chippewas open tournament play on Thursday against Furman in Macon, Ga.
This and that
■ Michigan State's James Piot, of Canton, was named Big Ten freshman golfer of the year, after averaging 73.42 in 11 events this season. He's the second Spartan to win the honor, after former PGA Tour player Ryan Brehm in 2005. Michigan senior Kyle Mueller, of Georgia, made first-team All-Big Ten for a third consecutive year, after averaging 70.32 to break his own program scoring record for a third straight year.
The NCAA field is to be announced Wednesday, but no state teams are expecting to be in the field.
■ Monty Porter is leaving Western Michigan to be Houston's senior associate athletics director for finance and administration. Porter spent 23 years at WMU, most recently as senior associate athletics director.
■ Eastern Michigan softball will play its final homes games ever in a doubleheader Wednesday against Oakland. EMU recently cut four sports, including softball.
■ The Wayne State women's golf team earned its first-ever Division II NCAA Tournament bid, and plays in a Super Regional at Ferris State's Katke Golf Course on May 7-9.
■ Michigan State forward Taya Reimer signed a free-agent contract with the WNBA's L.A. Sparks.