As his team gets set to defend its ITA Indoor National Indoor Championship title this weekend, Ohio State men’s tennis coach Ty Tucker said his players plan to show the other schools the discipline and mental toughness it takes to play like a Buckeye.
“You’re at Ohio State, they expect to win matches,” Tucker said. “You’re at a major place … It’s a major athletic department. You want to win to be able to hold your head up high.”
Going in as the defending champs might give the Buckeyes a slight advantage but they are dealing with a different lineup this time around,” redshirt-senior Kevin Metka said.
“This year we have a little less experience in some positions … So everyone’s got to focus on all the courts to get the job done,” Metka said.
Metka said he believes it will be just as hard, if not harder than last year for the Buckeyes to take home the tournament title. OSU is heading to Chicago as the No. 8 seed and is set to kick off the tournament Friday against No. 9 Texas. The winner will then play the winner a match between No. 1 University of Southern California and No. 16 Penn State on Saturday.
Metka said the Buckeyes have to take the tournament one match at a time in order to earn a repeat of last season’s triumph.
“I’d say mostly just getting through that first match and then hopefully getting a shot at USC,” he said. “That would be the next match but we’re trying not to look at it … We just want to take care of business in that first match.”
One of the most important things for the Buckeyes is to get off to a fast start in these matches and capture the doubles point, Tucker said.
“If we get the doubles point, we’re a tough team to beat,” he said.
With doubles only being one set, Tucker said the Buckeyes won’t have a chance to have a bad game or be moody and get off to a slow start.
Defending their first and only Indoor Championship isn’t something Tucker puts too much emphasis on, though, he said.
“Tennis courts (are) the same size everywhere we go, whether we’re at the nationals, whether we’re at Iowa,” Tucker said.
Although the court is the same size, Metka said it is not the same feel.
“The courts, it may not look like it but there’s actually some big difference in where you play,” he said. “Ball bounces a little but it can really throw off your strokes.”
For that reason, the Buckeyes left Columbus on Wednesday to get an extra day of practice on Thursday.
OSU is coming off its 200th consecutive home win, a record Tucker is happy to leave in the rearview mirror.
“It’s nice not having to answer questions about the streak … The guys can just concentrate on tennis,” Tucker said.