Before seniors Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs were honored on Senior Day at the final home match of the season, the Ohio State women’s tennis team knew it had a job to do.
Following a 3-0 sweep of Minnesota in doubles play, the Buckeyes (13-9, 6-2 Big Ten) notched victories in five of six singles matches, all in straight sets.
Despite fierce competition from the Golden Gophers, the Buckeyes never wavered. When Minnesota knotted things up, 1-1, sophomore Kara Cecil led the charge and defeated Minnesota’s Alessandra Ferrazzi, 6-2, 6-3.
“Today, it just felt really nice to get it done and close it out for my team and beat our senior (Hubbs) to the punch,” Cecil said. “She told me she was looking up at the scoreboard and going against me. … It was a good feeling to get another point for our team.”
Hubbs wasn’t far behind, defeating Minnesota’s Yuliana Umanets, 6-2, 6-1.
“I think today after the doubles, we knew they’d have a chip on their shoulder,” Hubbs said. “They’re a team that can bounce back, and we knew that going in.”
After battling through a tiebreaker to win her first set, sophomore Fidan Manashirova hit the accelerator, winning the second set, 6-1, and clinching the match for the Buckeyes.
OSU never let up. Junior Kelsey Haviland went toe-to-toe with Minnesota’s Natalia Pintusava, winning an emotional second set in a tiebreaker, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1). Sophomore Gabby Steele rallied from behind to win the final point, 6-4, 6-4.
A ‘bittersweet’ victory
Following the match, the team’s elation shifted to sadness as it lined up and an emotional coach Chuck Merzbacher presented Hubbs and Escobedo with flowers.
Coming to OSU, Hubbs and Escobedo were the sixth-ranked recruiting class nationally. Since their freshman year, the women have notched 294 wins in both singles and doubles play.
“It’s the happiest sad day of my life,” Hubbs said.
Escobedo agreed with her co-captain.
“It’s bittersweet,” Escobedo said. “She couldn’t have said it better.”