Men's tennis: Ohio State survives scare, extends home winning streak

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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The Ohio State men’s tennis team’s decade-long home winning streak was threatened this afternoon, but the No.5 Buckeyes won the final two matches to edge No.8 Texas A&M 4-3 at the Varsity Tennis Center.

Within moments of Chris Diaz’s loss at No.2 singles, which gave Texas A&M a 3-2 lead, Ralf Steinbach won at No.4 for the Buckeyes. Hunter Callahan at No.6 then closed out his match with a 6-5, 6-3 victory.

Ohio State extended it home winning streak to 181 matches. The Buckeyes last lost in Columbus on April 5, 2003, to Illinois.

Texas A&M figured to pose a difficult challenge. The Aggies defeated Ohio State in College Station, Texas, last year before the Buckeyes beat them in the NCAA tournament.

In five of the seven matchups today, Texas A&M had the higher ranking. The match got off to a bad start for Ohio State even before the first point. During warmups, Steinbach accidentally hit Diaz in the head with his racket.

“He needed 10-15 stitches,” Buckeyes coach Ty Tucker said. “He had eight minutes to stop the bleeding (before the match started).”

Diaz insisted on playing, though he and Steinbach lost, as did Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka at No.1 doubles in a tiebreaker to give Texas A&M the doubles point. (Tiebreakers this season begin at 5-5 in an attempt to shorten matches.)

Kobelt at No.1 singles and Metka at No.5 then won in straight sets. OSU’s Herkko Pollanen lost at No.2 singles.

Though Diaz would lose his No.3 singles match, he extended the second set to a tiebreaker, which Tucker thought was instrumental in keeping pressure off of Steinbach and Callahan.

“There was only 30 seconds when we were down 3-2,” Tucker said. “That (eases) a lot of pressure when everybody is watching the scoreboard, knowing that they had to serve at 5-4 instead of 3-2.”

Callahan, who rallied from 2-5 in the first set to win in a tiebreaker, then followed Steinbach by holding serve to clinch the Buckeyes’ victory.

“It’s a big win for us,” said Callahan, a junior from Philadelphia. “They’re a very good team. They have more ranked players than us. On paper, we were the underdog.”

So the streak lives, though both Tucker and Callahan said that wasn’t on the players' minds.

“Because for me, everyone before me set it,” said Callahan, who’s in his first year as a full-time starter. “I’m kind of doing my best to help it (continue).”

Two days ago, the Buckeyes defeated No.17 Kentucky. On Friday, they will compete at the National Indoors Team Tournament in Houston.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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