The streak has become almost its own entity — cherished and admired but also heavy and imposing.
The Ohio State men’s tennis team has won 184 straight home matches. Tonight, the Buckeyes can make history.
If No. 2-ranked OSU defeats No. 28 Northwestern at the Varsity Tennis Center, it will break the NCAA Division I record for most consecutive home victories in any sport.
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The NCAA does not keep complete track of such feats, but a spokesman for the organization said that it has no record of a longer streak. The Stanford women’s tennis team won 184 straight matches from 1999 to 2011. Ohio State’s streak began on April 6, 2003, with a victory over Purdue.
Coach Ty Tucker has done his best to downplay the record, but now that his program is on the cusp of achieving it, he embraces its significance.
“About five matches ago, we started really wanting to get it,” he said. “People started talking about it a little more. It’d be great for the program, great for Ohio State, great for the 11 years of different Ohio State tennis athletes who’ve contributed to this streak. So you start thinking about it and embracing it a little. But it still gets annoying.”
That’s because of the accompanying pressure. Tucker senses that his players have become tight in the last couple of weeks, tending to play not to lose instead of with the aggressiveness that he demands.
Sophomore Chris Diaz smiled when told that Tucker said the streak had started to weigh on the team.
“I think he’s getting a little more tight than anyone,” the Watterson graduate said with a chuckle. “But it’s a little bit nerve-racking. You want to complete the legacy that people have built before us.”
One of those people is Northwestern assistant coach Chris Klingemann, who helped lead the Buckeyes to three Big Ten regular-season titles and won OSU most valuable player honors as a senior in 2007.
“Northwestern is good,” Tucker said, “and it has an assistant coach that knows all of our tricks and who was a darn good player for us.”
Northwestern will try to do what some teams haven’t even tried to be coy about doing.
“Everybody’s going to come in here and give us their best shots,” Tucker said. “You can hear some (teams) talking a little bit of smack in the huddle before the match. Everybody knows in the college tennis world what’s going on.”
The streak came close to ending this year. In February, the Buckeyes barely prevailed over Texas A&M 4-3, overcoming a freak injury to Diaz when he was hit near the eye by a teammate’s racket in warmups. Diaz played and won, then needed 19 stitches. The scar remains.
Diaz is one of three local players starting for the Buckeyes. New Albany’s Peter Kobelt is 13-1 at No. 1 singles and is the reigning Big Ten co-athlete of the week. He teams with Worthington Kilbourne grad Kevin Metka in doubles. Metka is 17-2, playing mostly Nos. 4 and 5 singles.
Hunter Callahan, Herkko Pollanen and Ralf Steinbach are the other usual starters.
Tonight, they have a chance to make history.
“It’s a big opportunity, and we don’t want to let it go,” Metka said.