The Ohio State club tennis team took down two-time national champion UNC at the 2018 USTA Tennis On Campus National Championship on April 14 to win the first national championship in program history.
The tournament featured the top 64 coed intramural and club tennis teams across the country. Ohio State fell short of qualifying for regionals in 2017, but had its eyes set on making it this year.
“We had a tough loss at regionals last year and it was a huge bummer because we saw that we had this awesome team and it was a major let-down,” senior and president Izzi Nejedlik said. “This year coming in we really focused on practice matches and having tryouts within our team to see who we could play at our big tournaments.”
One of those players is sophomore Gavin Aten, who said playing in front of hundreds of people in the final match was nerve wracking.
“I’ve never played in that environment so it was kind of scary, but we just got on the court and just played our normal game,” Aten said. “Our opponents even said after the match that they let the nerves get to them and I guess we did a little better job at just playing our own game.”
Ohio State started believing it had a chance to go far this season when it beat some of the top college teams in its fall invitational and earned a bid to nationals. In the Buckeyes’ regional tournament, it fell to Wisconsin and placed third in the tournament.
When Wisconsin fell to University of California, San Diego early in the tournament and Ohio State defeated the Tritons 28-26 in the semifinals, the Buckeyes gained confidence and felt like they could win the whole thing.
“I had been to nationals two years ago with the team and knew how big of a deal it was and how exciting it is to play in the finals with so many fans watching so I really wanted it,” Nejedlik said.
Ohio State never had their mind set on winning a national title, instead, just making it into the tournament was enough. The team anticipated for every match they played to be their last and gave their all which ultimately helped them win the big title.
“We honestly weren’t going into that tournament thinking we would make it to the finals so I just played every match like it would be the last match I would play,” Aten said. “I just gave everything I could in every match because a lot of those matches we did not have a lot of high hopes for and I guess we just put everything in that we could and it turned out that we would win.”
Comprised primarily of freshmen and sophomores, the team has the ability to continue the momentum in the years to come.
“We were all so happy for each other,” Aten said. “There’s nothing else that could bring us closer than winning the national championship.”