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In Big Ten men’s tennis, fluctuations in weather make travel ‘tricky’

Mark Batke / Lantern reporter

The Ohio State men’s tennis team is scheduled to continue Big Ten conference play on the road against Nebraska and Iowa after three consecutive wins in Columbus.
Recent home victories against Louisville, Purdue and Indiana helped propel the No. 7 Buckeyes (18-2, 3-0) toward their nearly 10-year home win streak, as well as their pursuit of an eighth-straight Big Ten championship.
Both losses suffered by the Scarlet and Gray during the 2013 campaign – then-No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 1 Virginia – have come while playing on the road.
Coach Ty Tucker said away matches during the spring are unpredictable because of the constantly changing weather.
“The tricky thing about Big Ten tennis and on-the-road matches is that you never know what weather you’re going to get. When you get to a place, you have to make sure that you practice on their indoor courts and their outdoor courts. After traveling, and flying, and changing planes, guys aren’t really looking forward to four hours of practice,” Tucker said. “It’s challenging to the guys … one day it’s 60 degrees and the next day it’s snowing in the Big Ten.”
The Buckeyes’ match against Nebraska (8-7, 0-2) will be the third time OSU has faced off against the Cornhuskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011. OSU won both matches against Nebraska in 2012. However, the match Friday will mark the first time the Buckeyes have traveled to Lincoln, Neb., as part of their conference schedule.
“We know that (Nebraska) has a difficult indoor tennis center, and if (the match) is outdoors, we know that it’s usually a very windy condition. In tennis, high winds is a pretty darn good equalizer,” Tucker said. “The most important thing that we do is make some first serves, stay disciplined and keep the feet moving.”
Redshirt senior Devin McCarthy said he is looking forward to visiting Nebraska for his first time as a Buckeye.
“I’m excited. I’ve obviously played at the other (Big Ten) schools four or five times, and it will be fun to see a new school, new facility and check out the campus a little bit,” he said.
After the scheduled match against Nebraska, OSU is slated to travel to Iowa City, Iowa, to face the Hawkeyes on Sunday. Steve Houghton, the coach of the Hawkeyes (7-7, 0-2), is the longest-tenured active coach in Big Ten men’s tennis, currently serving his 31st season with Iowa. The Buckeyes shut out Iowa, 7-0, in Columbus in 2012.
“When I was playing in the Big Ten, Steve Houghton was the coach at that time. (He is) a class individual and you always have a good match, but it’s always much rougher at Iowa,” Tucker said.
Tucker said he is confident in his team’s ability to perform on the road because leadership from OSU’s two seniors, Connor Smith and McCarthy, has been strong on and off the court.
“One of our goals is for seniors to have their best years. To see these guys stepping up their senior year and putting the wins on the board and doing it convincingly is what we always hope will happen with the seniors … Connor and Devin have done a tremendous job,” Tucker said.
Smith, who is ranked No. 43 nationally, said the team’s high performance level is because of a focus on team play rather than individual play.
“In tennis, it’s a very individual sport, so it’s easy to get caught up in the individual ranking and trying to get individual accolades and all that. I think we care more, personally, about each guy on the team and how the team does than any personal rankings. We would rather be ranked one as a team,” Smith said.
The match against Nebraska on Friday is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. in Lincoln, Neb. 

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