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Ohio State men’s tennis team seeks 1st NCAA championship

Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics

The Ohio State men’s tennis team will begin NCAA Tournament action at home Friday. The Buckeyes are going into the tournament as the No. 4 seed, and they will look to bring home their first-ever national title.

Sixty-four teams from around the nation were selected May 3 to be part of the 2011 NCAA Championship Tournament.

The Buckeyes were one of 31 teams that automatically qualified for the tournament by winning their conference championship. OSU earned that bid May 1, when it clinched its sixth consecutive Big Ten Tournament title in Madison, Wis.

OSU will begin the NCAA Tournament with home-field advantage.

The team will host Notre Dame, East Tennessee State and Ball State for the first two rounds of the six-round tournament Friday and Saturday.

“It’s always much easier to win at home than on the road,” said coach Ty Tucker of the advantage.

OSU (30-2) opens the NCAA Tournament against Ball State (15-14).

The last time the Buckeyes played the Cardinals was during the 1994–95 season. Overall, OSU is 9-3 against Ball State.

“After two weeks off, you have to establish in the first round that you’re ready to play,” Tucker said of the Friday match.

If the team advances past the first two rounds, the Buckeyes will travel to Stanford, Calif., to compete.

“We need to focus on the first two rounds,” senior co-captain Balazs Novak said.

The biggest competitors the Buckeyes could face throughout the tournament are Virginia and USC, Tucker said.

OSU lost to Virginia once already this season, 4-1, in February.

“There are a lot of good teams,” senior co-captain Matt Allare said. “Virginia hasn’t been beaten at all, and USC are the back-to-back champions.”

The last time the Buckeyes made it to the NCAA Tournament finals was in 2009, when they fell to USC, the reigning national champion.

“We’re No. 4 in the nation, but you look at other teams and they’re so good,” senior co-captain Shuhei Uzawa said. “We just need to give it everything we’ve got.”

Despite the tough competition, OSU’s ultimate goal is to bring home the national title.

“That’s one of the three or four goals every year,” Tucker said. “I think that has to be the goal.”

Novak said winning the championship title would be a great achievement for the team and that it would mean everything.

The first match in Columbus will be between Notre Dame and East Tennessee State at 10 a.m. Friday at the Stickney Tennis Center.

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