Kelly Roderick / Lantern photographer
For the first time in seven years, the Ohio State men’s tennis team lost the Big Ten tournament title. But players said they’re using their championship-match loss to Illinois as motivation heading into the NCAA Championship.
The No. 3-ranked Buckeyes will serve as host to the first and second rounds of the Division I NCAA Championships Saturday and Sunday.
Sophomore Blaz Rola said the Illinois loss was tough to take, but he hopes he can use his disappointment to help the team become NCAA Championships.
“After the finals it hurt us, we put a lot of effort and work into it in the last two weeks,” Rola said. “Just trying to stay focused and in shape because we are going to play hopefully in Georgia.”
The Buckeyes were selected as the overall No. 5 seed in the field of 64 and will welcome Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and East Tennessee State to Columbus this weekend. Coach Ty Tucker said every team is going to be tough to beat.
“The mindset is to get the doubles point and come out in the first sets of singles and try to establish a lead,” he said.
Senior Chase Buchanan will compete doubles with Rola as the No. 1 seed. The duo is one of 32 doubles teams competing for the national championship title.
“We play all the time together and try to help each other continue to grow,” Buchanan said. “We have a great relationship and we play together everyday.”
Tucker said both players have been great team leaders and captains.
“The good thing about it is they won two nationals in the fall and consistently got better over the last six months,” Tucker said. “To see our two top guys get together, play as a team together has been great.”
Rola said hosting the tournament early on would give his team an advantage.
“To have that home-court advantage heading into the NCAAs … and with the crowd support, it gives some confidence going into the Sweet 16, it’s really good,” Rola said.
Buchanan said even though this is a very exciting time in his career, he is in no race to finish.
“I also want to savor these last few weeks and try to enjoy it as much as possible, because there is really nothing like college tennis,” he said. “It’s so much fun and I hope to enjoy it.”
OSU will play in the first round on Saturday against East Tennessee State at 1 p.m.