The Ohio State men’s tennis team has had immense success in Ty Tucker’s 15 years as coach, but reaching the national pinnacle had eluded the Buckeyes — until yesterday.
Fifth-ranked Ohio State defeated No. 3 Southern California 4-1 to win the Intercollegiate Tennis Association national team indoor championship in Houston.
Redshirt freshman Ralf Steinbach clinched the victory at No. 4 singles with a 6-5 (7-4), 6-4 decision over Connor Farren.
Peter Kobelt at No. 1 and Hunter Callahan at No. 6 also won singles matches in straight sets for the Buckeyes. Kobelt, ranked 23rd nationally, defeated No. 7 Ray Sarmiento 6-3, 6-4. Callahan, unranked, defeated No. 47 Jonny Wang 6-4, 6-4.
Kobelt and Kevin Metka at No. 1 doubles and Chris Diaz and Steinbach at No. 3 doubles were victorious to give Ohio State the doubles point.
The Buckeyes are now 13-0, the best start in program history. Given their departures from last year, including NCAA singles champion Blaz Rola, even Tucker expected this to be a bit of a rebuilding year.
“Of course you think that,” he said. “Who wouldn’t think that? I think a lot of teams around the country were licking their chops, hoping to get a chance to play the Buckeyes because of the eight- or 10-year run that we’ve had.
“You have a lot of uncertainty with four new starters in the singles lineup. You know they’re good players, but you don’t know how they’ll respond when they’re serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set or in the tiebreaker in the third.”
They have proved to be up to the task. Steinbach trailed 3-0 and 4-2 in his first-set tiebreaker.
“Any time you win a national title, it’s a great thing,” Tucker said. “But we have to keep concentrating because not even half the season is over. Like I told them, ‘Enjoy it, but I’ll see you Wednesday at 8:45 in the morning for practice.’ ”
The Buckeyes face a tough match on Saturday at Notre Dame.
“We can’t run around and talk about how great it is and say we’re national champions and hug each other, because the Irish are looking to whip us,” Tucker said.