As a two-time PIAA and three-time WPIAL champion, Ronit Yurovsky is used to playing in high-level matches.
Since stepping onto the tennis courts at Plum High School as a freshman in 2008, Yurovsky has been playing with a target on her back as one of the top amateurs in the country.
But it didn't take long for this New Kensington native to establish similar pressure at the University of Michigan.
As a freshman playing No. 2 singles for the Wolverines, Yurovsky was thrown directly into the pressure cooker March 1 when Michigan took on No. 2-ranked Duke. With all the matches completed except hers and the score tied, 3-3, Yurovsky knew the fate of all her teammates rested squarely on her shoulders.
"There was a little pressure there," she said with a laugh. "As the match went on, I kind of glanced at the scoreboard and I knew I had to pull it out. I had such a big lead in the third set, I was up 5-1, and then it was 5-2, 5-3, 5-4 and it got to 5-all, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' I got really nervous.
"I tried to block out everything that was going on and just focus on that match and not what was going on around me and it ended up working out."
Yurovsky won the first set 6-3, lost the second 6-4 but held on for a 7-5 victory in the third to give the Wolverines a 4-3 victory against Duke, the highest-ranked opponent Michigan has ever beaten. As part of her efforts in that match, Yurovsky was selected Big Ten tennis athlete of the week for the second time this season.
"The sky is the limit for Ronit," Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said. "There are really no holes in her game. For an opposing coach, where do you play to her? Her forehand is good, her backhand is good, she can come forward, she's good at the net. She really has it all.
"It just depends on her where she wants to take it. I think she could play at the next level. It just really depends on her and how she develops."
You would think for someone lugging a duffel bag full of tennis trophies out of Plum High School when she graduated, there wouldn't be a whole lot she needed to improve on and develop, but Yurovsky readily admits she had a lot of work to do in Ann Arbor.
"In the fall when I came here there were a lot of things I needed to improve on in my game," she said.
"I worked on coming in a lot. I worked on that all through the fall and I think that helped me a lot because I've gotten a lot better at it. I come in a lot more so my game has kind of changed. It's been working.
"I didn't completely change my game, I'm still the same. I just improved on the things that would make me a lot better. I worked out when I was younger but it just really clicked over here."
Things have been clicking for Yurovsky for some time now.
Ranked No. 1 in the USTA's Middle States area, she quickly built a 15-match winning streak at Michigan before losing to Laura Claus, 6-3, 6-3, in a 4-2 Wolverines victory March 8 at San Diego.
Yurovsky has a 6-1 record playing at No. 2 singles and an 8-1 record in dual matches. Overall, she is 19-5. Playing in her only match at No. 1 singles, Yurovsky posted a 6-2, 6-1 victory against Marina Bohrer of Michigan State in a 7-0 win Feb. 27 in the Big Ten opener.
Yurovsky, currently ranked No. 33 in the ITA singles rankings, won the singles title at the ASU Thunderbird in November in Tempe, Ariz.
"She obviously was a big-time recruit for us," said Bernstein, who has earned Big Ten coach of the year honors the past three years. "She's a strong kid, works really hard and is a great team player.
"Tennis is kind of an individual sport but when you get to college, you become part of a team. We have a tight-knit group, they really play for each other. She's fit in really well."
The Wolverines are ranked ninth in NCAA Division I and have just one senior in the lineup, Mimi Nguyen, who is a part-time starter in singles. Yurovksy also competes at No. 2 doubles.
The predominately underclassmen lineup doesn't bode well for the rest of the Big Ten Conference ... the Wolverines (9-3, 1-0) are three-time defending conference champions.
Yurovsky would like nothing more than to make it four in a row.
"That's huge," she said. "Michigan, they've done so well. Being part of a team that wins the Big Ten, that's really exciting."
Rick Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3789.