Ohio State women’s tennis heads into the Intercollegiate Association Division I National Indoor Championship this weekend as an underdog to make a deep run.
No. 12 Ohio State (3-0), the lowest seed in the tournament at No. 8, is matched up with No. 22 Georgia Tech (8-2) –– an unseeded team that bounced the Buckeyes from the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
Regardless, the Buckeyes enter with confidence having knocked off then-No. 5 Duke in their most recent outing.
“Beating another top ten team in a week and a half was exciting. It shows our team can really do well this year. We can play and beat anyone,” senior Danielle Wolf said.
The Buckeyes are no stranger to the underdog role. They upset then-No. 10 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Jan. 26 before topping the Blue Devils at home five days later.
Including a victory against then-No. 24 Wake Forest, Ohio State played three matches in a six-day stretch during the final week of January. Ohio State head coach Melissa Schaub said she isn’t concerned about fatigue, though.
“I’m excited about playing three more matches. I think it’s a benefit,” Schaub said. “To be at the top, you have to play a lot and to keep it going for four months. It’s a long season. If we are not ready to do that, then that’s on us.”
Ohio State’s route to the finals is rigorous. If the Buckeyes get past Georgia Tech, they will face either defending Big Ten champion Michigan or No. 1 seed Stanford.
The top 14 in the ITA women’s rankings are included among the 16-team bracket. Princeton and Illinois are the only two teams to qualify that were not top 16 in the rankings.
Each team, regardless of wins and losses, will play three matches. A consolation bracket will facilitate matches for the single-elimination tournament losers.
Depth for the Buckeyes includes Wolf, junior Shiori Fukuda and freshman Irina Cantos Siemers. All three are ranked in the nation’s top 100, with Fukuda at No. 8, Cantos Siemers at No. 62 and Wolf at No. 99.
Fukuda closed out the Oklahoma State match, which clinched the Buckeyes’ berth to the Indoor Championship. Wolf recently secured the team win against Duke with a nail-biting 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory.
Ohio State is also finding ways to win from unexpected sources, such as redshirt freshman Kathleen Jones. She was 0-2 heading into the Duke match and walked away with a straight-set victory. Her opponent took one of 13 games.
“This year, she has been thrown into the lineup with a few people hurt, and she has relished in that role, next man up,” Ohio State assistant coach Adam Cohen said. “Getting the opportunity against a top 5 team in Duke and being the first one off the court –– us as coaches did not expect that –– but she took the most of the opportunity and ran with it.”
This weekend is ultimately an opportunity for the Buckeyes to keep their winning streak going and bring home some hardware.
“We are excited. We went into the Kickoff Weekend playing ranked Wake Forest and Oklahoma State — we know why we’re there and why we are playing,” Schaub said. “This is the ultimate goal. We are always looking for the next match. It always has to be like that with us.”
Ohio State opens play against Georgia Tech at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Chicago.