Peter Kobelt knows he’s not supposed to look at the scoreboard. But last night, he couldn’t help himself. The senior knew he could clinch Ohio State’s men’s tennis match against Northwestern at the Varsity Tennis Center, and he knew this would be no ordinary victory.
So with the match on his racket, Kobelt delivered with a strong serve and forehand winner for the final point in a 6-1, 7-5 win that gave Ohio State its 185th straight home victory, setting the NCAA Division I record for consecutive home wins in any sport.
Kobelt’s victory at No. 1 singles put No. 2 Ohio State ahead 4-2, rendering No. 28 Northwestern’s victory at No. 3 singles in the final match meaningless.
The Buckeyes had been candid recently about the pressure they felt trying to break the record set by the Stanford women’s tennis team from 1999 to 2011. Coach Ty Tucker believed the Buckeyes had been playing tight as a result, and that was the case last night.
They struggled to win the doubles point until Kevin Metka, playing with Kobelt, closed it out with a couple of service winners.
Metka then won at No. 4 singles, as did Ralf Steinbach at No. 6. But the other matches were close, including Kobelt’s against Raleigh Smith, who had beaten him in their previous two matches.
Kobelt won the first set 6-1 but blew a chance to break serve at love-40 in the second set. He finally did so at 5-5.
“Our coaches always tell us not to watch the scoreboard, but it’s a pretty big scoreboard so you end up catching yourself looking up at it,” Kobelt said. “There was a moment when I was like, ‘It’s going to come down to me.’ I definitely had a few moments in the second set when I was pretty tight.”
When he got to match point, he knew what was at stake.
“I was like, ‘Man, this is a big serve,’ ” Kobelt said. “My service game is the best part of my game, and I knew I needed to put in a good first serve and clean up anything after that, and that’s kind of what happened.
“It was definitely a relief. I knew what was riding on the match and all the work that the past guys on the team (have done).”
An overflow crowd that included athletic director Gene Smith erupted after the clinching point. Ohio State has not lost at home since 2003.
“I don’t even know how to put it in words for a team to do this,” Smith said. “It’s just a phenomenal accomplishment. I think Ty is the best coach in the country.”
Ohio State (20-2) has little time to celebrate. The Buckeyes play host to their toughest Big Ten rival, No. 10 Illinois, on Sunday.
“I’m hoping that with us having the record, that the guys will lighten up a little bit and relax,” Tucker said, “and hopefully I’ll relax a little bit.”