Ohio State women’s tennis begins its new season where it finished its last: in the final slot of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 25.
Beginning their spring season Friday in Ann Arbor at the Michigan Invitational though, some young Buckeyes believe no goal is too far off the court.
“We all have really big expectations on the things we can accomplish this year,” sophomore Kolie Allen said. “Last year, coming in as a freshman, we were not really sure how it was gonna go. There were a lot of new people, and to see how well we did, we know we can do that much better.”
A season ago, six of the nine players on the Buckeye roster were underclassmen, and junior Luna Dormet was in her first year with the program as a transfer from Texas A&M-Corpus Christie.
Even with the young lineup, Ohio State met expectations and peaked at No. 10 at one point in the season. Ohio State made the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season, but a first-round loss to Georgia Tech was the Buckeyes’ fourth exit in the opening round since 2014.
However, Ohio State returns with a more experienced roster this year, including five upperclassmen, one of which being redshirt junior Shiori Fukuda, No. 11 in singles.
The Buckeyes won’t be devoid of new talent either, as freshman Irina Cantos Siemers was once rated the No. 1 youth player in Germany prior to coming to Ohio State. Cantos Siemers is Ohio State’s second-highest ranked singles player at No. 58.
“I think we are excited to go to Michigan, play three teams and see where we are at with other teams,” head coach Melissa Schaub said. “I have no concerns with the younger players, but they need to get the experience of playing college tennis under their belt. Irina had a very good fall as a freshman.”
Schaub enters her eighth season with the Buckeyes and only missed the NCAA Tournament in her first year. Schaub’s six-straight tournament appearances are tied for the longest streak in program history.
Friday at the Michigan Invitational, Ohio State will be tested early with matches against No. 14 Michigan, No. 22 Tennessee and TCU.
Fukuda will be a Buckeye to watch, considering her success in the offseason. She won a professional tournament in Korea this past June and adds experience as one of two players who are in their fourth year with the program.
“Shiori obviously had an unbelievable fall,” Schaub said. “She comes in as one of the highest-ranked players that we have had. Definitely looking at her to have that leadership role too as a returning junior.”
Fukuda is from Tokyo and spent most of her summer preparing for the season in Asia, which she said allowed her to better analyze players and be more creative in matches.
Redshirt senior Danielle Wolf is the team’s longest tenured player and led the team with 26 doubles wins a season ago. She finished second on the team in individual wins.
Danielle Wolf is also the sister of former Ohio State men’s tennis player and former No. 1 JJ Wolf. JJ is a professional tennis player and recently won a qualifying round at the Australian Open.
“We’re really close. He helps me whenever I have a little thing I need to work on,” Danielle Wolf said. “We hit with each other over winter break with my dad like the old days. I learn from him and maybe he learns from me. I watch him and see things I like and try to implement them in my game.”
The Buckeyes were on a 12-game winning streak a year ago until reigning Big Ten champion Michigan defeated them at the end of this past March.
Danielle Wolf has not forgotten.
“Win as many matches as I can is a goal of mine, but beating Michigan specifically is a good one,” she said.
Danielle Wolf and the Buckeyes have a chance for revenge when the season begins at the Michigan Invitational Friday.