Lantern file photo
Only one match stands between the Ohio State men’s tennis team and a decade-long home win streak.
The No. 5 Buckeyes (21-2, 5-0) hold a 163-match home win streak dating back to an April 5, 2003, loss against Illinois. Should OSU secure a victory against Big Ten foe Wisconsin (10-7, 1-4) on Friday, the team will officially cap off a 10-year journey of remaining unbeaten in Columbus.
“(The players) are excited … I’ll be happy when Friday comes and hopefully we can win, because for the past few weeks, thinking about it and talking about it puts a little bit of stress on everybody,” said OSU coach Ty Tucker. “It’s a mark you want to achieve, and being one match away from it, it’ll be nice if we can get the win … it’ll be nice to be done with it.”
Redshirt senior captain Devin McCarthy said the team is finding it difficult to ignore the high stakes surrounding the looming achievement.
“(The record) is definitely in our heads a lot more than it has ever been before any match, just because we want to get to that 10 years. But at the same time, we are still thinking about Big Ten season and wanting to stay undefeated in the Big Ten,” McCarthy said.
One of the largest challenges the Buckeyes will face against the Badgers will be the transition from the indoor courts at the Varsity Tennis Center to the outdoor courts at Varsity Tennis Courts, where the match is scheduled to take place.
“I haven’t remembered it in a while being this cold (in Columbus),” Tucker said. “Knowing that we haven’t had a ton of outdoor practice and knowing that it’s going to be very windy … it’s hard to reach your best level when you haven’t had that much practice outside.”
Tucker said in the case of temperatures dropping below 50 degrees, the match would be moved inside. It is expected to be a partly cloudy, 55 degrees with 12 mph winds on Friday, according to weather.com.
With a decade-long win streak and an undefeated conference season on the line against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will rely on the performances of their upperclassmen leaders. Four OSU upperclassmen are ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 100 individual rankings.
McCarthy, ranked No. 83 nationally, and junior Ille Van Engelen hold the best doubles record on the team in 2013, going 18-1 overall.
Redshirt junior Peter Kobelt, who is ranked No. 4 nationally, leads the team in singles wins, rattling off a 27-6 record throughout the 2013 season.
Kobelt said his success this season has given him a chance to lead younger players on the team.
“This year I definitely had a breakout in the fall. I put in a lot of time and effort,” he said. “You try and lead by example on and off the court so that the younger guys see and you give them a good example to follow.”
Kobelt said as the team prepares for Wisconsin, they try not to underestimate any conference team.
“Any Big Ten school is very capable, so we’ll be out there and ready to go full speed (on Friday),” he said.
More than any individual performance, the OSU squad continues to push one another toward playing as a single unit, a mentality that Tucker said he is proud of.
“(I’ve enjoyed) watching (the players) form into a team, because tennis is a very individual sport … and when you get to college and get put on a team, you have to do what is in the best interest of the team,” he said.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to face off against Wisconsin Friday at 5 p.m. in Columbus.