Ohio State junior John McNally awaits a serve. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics

Ohio State men’s tennis returns to the court in an unusual spot. 

The Buckeyes enter the season ranked No. 6 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association — Ohio State’s lowest ranking in four years. 

“I’m actually pretty excited to see what happens because the past couple of years we have gone into the season knowing that we were one of the big dogs,”  junior John McNally said. 

The biggest Buckeye question marks surrounding the upcoming season stem from the loss of significant players such as former No. 1 JJ Wolf and 2018 doubles All-Americans Martin Joyce and Hunter Tubert. 

The young roster also raises questions. Ohio State has only one senior, Kyle Seelig, and five freshmen, including No. 16 Cannon Kingsley. 

“A young team is a positive and a negative,” McNally said. “A negative because they’re inexperienced in college tennis, and college tennis is different than playing normal tennis. At times, you are up against 25-year-olds from different countries. A positive, however, is that they’re coming in with a fresh mind and look forward to being here every day. The sky is the limit for this team.” 

Ohio State has four players ranked in the top 40 singles, and freshmen Robert Cash and McNally are the No. 2 doubles pair in the country. 

The Buckeyes may have lost four players, but they brought in the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation.

“We think it’s the best in the country,” head coach Ty Tucker said. “We think Justin Boulais and Cannon Kingsley are top 25 in the country every day.”  

Ohio State will have a chance to establish its identity early in the season, with matches against No. 2 defending national champion Texas, No. 3 USC and No. 25 Arizona State.  

The Buckeyes have won 14 consecutive Big Ten regular-season titles and entered this past year’s NCAA tournament as the No. 1 seed. 

The team has high expectations for this season.

“The goal of ours is always to win a Big Ten title and win a national championship, and that’s what we’re gonna try to do this year,” Seelig said. “For me, it’s my last year, and I am the only senior. It’s a new experience to know that this is my last shot at playing for the Buckeyes, and every match is super important to me.” 

McNally, ranked No. 24 in singles, is a player to watch this season. He won the singles and doubles titles at the ITA Midwest Regional Championship in 2019.

“In the fall, I didn’t meet my expectations really, struggling with some mental stuff, but now I’m healthy and in a good place mentally and physically. I am enjoying tennis again and I am coming off a good tournament and having some confidence,” McNally said.

McNally went undefeated in conference play this past year and helped the Buckeyes reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament with a singles victory against Columbia junior Jack Lin, who ranks No. 22 in singles. 

“I am looking forward to hopefully showing my coaches and the rest of the country that I can play and try to live up to the level of JJ and [Mikael Torpegaard],” McNally said. 

McNally and the young Buckeyes start indoor play Wednesday against Northern Kentucky and Dayton.