For senior Miho Kowase, individual accolades come second to team success, something that the No. 5 Ohio State women’s tennis team has seen a lot of en route to its second consecutive Big Ten regular-season title.
As a matter of fact, Kowase, who broke the school record for all-time singles wins with her 105th career win against Northwestern’s Alex Chatt April 16, didn’t even know she was approaching the record.
“Actually I had no idea, that’s the funny part,” Kowase said. “My teammates told me, actually, after the match and my coaches told me and I was like, ‘What?’”
This wasn’t the first time Kowase unknowingly approached a big milestone in her career, as something similar happened when she won her 100th singles match March 31 against Rutgers.
“I had no idea,” Kowase added. “I had no idea when I won (my) 100th match actually before my teammate came up to me like, ‘Congrats, Miho, that was your 100th match!’”
Her focus remained on the competition at hand, which OSU has been taking care of handily as of late.
“It’s just all the hard work she’s put in over the years and the way she’s gone about doing the work,” coach Melissa Schaub said. “She’s just an unbelievable competitor and she wants to win every single match … When you have that competitiveness and that confidence in what you’ve put in, then you just get to go out there and have fun and that’s what the matches should be like.”
The team finished the regular season on an eight-match win streak and a perfect record against conference opponents. All season, the team surrendered only one point to Big Ten opposition, outscoring the conference 73-1.
The team also set a new school record for shutout victories with 18 over the course of the season.
“I think breaking the record will mean something to her one day for sure,” Schaub said. “But right now, all the credit to her for just playing each match as it is.”
In her senior season, though, Kowase is strictly focused on the team and its potential in the postseason.
“Last year we won the Big Ten tournament, like (the) first time ever and that was really great,” she said. “And then we have a chance to do it again, that’s something I never thought we could’ve done.”
Kowase is one of four graduating seniors for the team, and wants to make sure she goes out with a bang.
“I don’t know if I’m ready to be done, but I just want to finish strong and I just want to keep working hard so that I don’t have any regrets” Kowase said. “So I just need to keep competing, keep playing for my team.”
The No. 3 seed Buckeyes play No. 14 South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday in Athens, Georgia, in the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament.