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Women’s tennis team defeats Wisconsin, despite rusty Escobedo

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After losing in doubles play and falling behind, 1-0, the Ohio State women’s tennis team (12-9, 5-2 Big Ten) surged back to win five of six singles matches and defeat Wisconsin (11-10, 2-5 Big Ten), 5-2, Friday.

After OSU’s Fidan Manashirova defeated Wisconsin’s Jessica Seyferth in two sets, 6-0, 6-1, Kelsey Haviland, Gabby Steele, and Cami Hubbs all defeated their opponents in straight sets to clinch the match and go up, 4-2.

“We knew Wisconsin; they’re a really good team and they’re kind of underrated right now, so we knew that everyone had to come out and play their best tennis,” Haviland said. “I was really happy with the way I played. I stuck to my game plan and got it done.”

Just before rain began to fall, the last remaining match went to Kara Cecil, who defeated Wisconsin’s Hannah Berner in two sets, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), after winning a tiebreaker.

The Buckeyes also welcomed back injured senior captain and No. 1 singles player Paloma Escobedo, who saw her first action since March 11.

On Wednesday, more than one month after Escobedo suffered a stress fracture in her left leg, she was cleared to play. Despite losing to Wisconsin’s Jenny Hois in two sets, 7-5, 6-1, Escobedo said she’s confident she’ll bounce back.

“I had a lot of fun out there, even though I lost,” Escobedo said. “I think I saw what I need to work on still. I was really just happy to be able to play tennis again. It’s going to get better from here on out.”

Frustrated by some questionable calls and a close first set, Escobedo had trouble in her return to the court after a month away.

“My legs got a little heavy in the second set,” she said. “Physically, I got a little tired and I was a little rusty.”

Despite the rough start, Escobedo took some positives away from her match.

“My game never went away. In some cases, I felt like I hadn’t even been gone,” she said. “I was being a little hard on myself during the match, but after evaluating, it wasn’t so bad.”

After two straight wins against Michigan State and Wisconsin, coach Chuck Merzbacher said his team is on the right track.

“That’s a good team that we beat,” he said. “It was great to have Paloma back. Everyone took care of their court in singles, which was big.

“I felt like we were in control. Some of those double matches got away from us, but we didn’t hang our heads. Everyone competed so well. In the Big Ten, you have to line up and compete hard. It doesn’t matter what the records are, everyone’s going to play hard.”

The Buckeyes play their final home match, against Minnesota, at 11 a.m. Sunday.

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