After a season filled with weeks of challenging training sessions and intense matches, the home stretch is in sight for the No. 5 Ohio State women’s tennis team (23-2, 9-0) as it hopes to continue its undefeated Big Ten conference streak this weekend.
The team is set to compete against its final two conference foes this weekend, facing off against Indiana on Friday and Purdue on Sunday.
The final two regular-season matches are not only important in regard to competing against conference competition and improving the team’s record, but they will also serve as a way to honor the seniors at their final regular-season home matches.
The team will be graduating seniors Ferny Angeles Paz, Gabriella De Santis, Miho Kowase and Sandy Niehaus, so it isare looking forward to celebrating those players this weekend, sophomore Francesca Di Lorenzo said.
“We’re super excited to play,” Di Lorenzo said. “It’s our senior weekend for our four seniors, so it’s a pretty big weekend for them and for all of us to hopefully be able to close out the Big Ten going 11-0 and secure the Big Ten regular season title on Sunday.”
In order to prepare for the competition that the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers will bring this weekend, the team has been breaking down into smaller groups during training this week to hone in on certain skills, head coach Melissa Schaub said.
“This week, we have actually switched things up … And it’s always good when you get a chance to do that,” Schaub said. “These guys have hit so many balls at this point of the season, so you’re just trying to fine-tune certain things and get in there with our strength and conditioning coach to make sure that the fitness is staying up to the level that it needs to be as well.”
Though the Buckeyes have been largely successful throughout their season, with a 23-2 record overall, this weekend’s competition is not to be taken lightly, Di Lorenzo said.
“Everyone is working on something different in their game whether it’s aggressively, defensively or just getting the footwork back,” Di Lorenzo said. “It’s important just to finish out these two matches strong and not let Indiana and Purdue go by us. They’re two tough teams and we’ve got to be ready for anything they throw at us. We’re working hard in practice this week and, hopefully, it will show this weekend.”
Players have worked to focus on solidifying their own skill set, but they’re also aware that there will be tough competition this weekend. Indiana senior Paula Gutierrez and sophomore Madison Appel are two players that have been on the Buckeyes’ radar, Di Lorenzo said.
“They were pretty tough for us to compete against last year, so those are definitely some girls we’ll be looking out for,” Di Lorenzo said, “But whether we’re playing Florida, who is No. 1 in the nation, or we’re playing a team that’s maybe not as highly ranked, we play every match on our terms and stay intense throughout each competition.”
No matter what opponent the Buckeyes compete against, they focus on staying healthy, stepping up and staying aggressive, which De Santis said they have been doing a great job of in these final weeks of regular-season training.
As long as the team performs this weekend and continues to improve as it transitions from regular to postseason, it is expecting to be ready for the championships, Di Lorenzo said.
“We’re looking to do well at NCAAs,” Di Lorenzo said. “That’s what we’ve been practicing for and that is one of the big goals that we wrote down at the beginning of the year. As long as we’re ready for NCAAs, that’s all that matters.”
The Buckeyes are set to compete Friday against Indiana at 3 p.m., and Sunday against Purdue at noon. The competition will be at the Varsity Tennis Courts next to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.