Lindsey Fox / Asst. multimedia editor
The Ohio State’s men’s tennis team’s first match of the spring season ushered in a new century of tennis at OSU Wednesday, and it has players and coaches reflecting on the history and future of the program.
Founded in 1912, the men’s tennis team is in its 101st season. The seven-time Big Ten regular season champions begin the year on a 128-game winning streak at home, and have lost one of the last 57 road games.
“Everyone wants to beat you and some guys come in here like we should have recruited them instead,” said coach Ty Tucker.
Tucker, a former OSU student, left Columbus after his junior year in 1992 to play tennis professionally. Twelve years later, he was inducted into the OSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
He has since been awarded Big Ten Coach of the Year the past six years in a row.
During the 2006 season, OSU became known as one of the premier tennis teams in the nation. Two record-breaking Buckeyes, Ross Wilson and Scott Green, were the first doubles team in the history of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor All-American National Championship to win consecutive indoor titles.
“We want to be a strong doubles team,” Tucker said. “Hopefully, come May, we’ll be there.”
But an experienced coaching staff has not always guided the men’s tennis team. For two seasons, the Buckeyes had no coach at all.
Between 1918 and 1919, OSU went 12-5 without a coach, posting its highest winning percentage at the time. The team went through three more coaches before settling on Herman Wirthwein in 1925.
Wirthwein stayed with OSU for 33 years and remains the longest standing coach in program history. He also had one of the worst coaching records in Buckeye tennis, 117-147-3.
The team has been strong leading up to a notable 100th season. As the program celebrated the anniversary last year, the tone has been set for the next century.
“No one wants to let the streak go,” said redshirt junior Devin McCarthy. “Everyone’s under pressure and they don’t want to be that guy that lets everyone down.”
McCarthy said he and the others look up to the seniors that just graduated and try to guide the younger players to play their best.
With a solid foundation, the Buckeyes hope the next chapter will bring continued success and their first NCAA national title.
“In the last four years I’ve been here, we’ve been close,” said senior Steven Williams. “It would mean a lot to the coaching staff.”
The dreams of achieving national recognition in the NCAA tournament might not be far off.
OSU has a group of young players who have received numerous accolades at the conference and national levels, led recently by sophomore Blaz Rola, who is the No. 2-ranked singles player in the country.
The combination of Rola and senior Chase Buchanan has baffled opponents for the last year. The pair is the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the nation.
“It’s a good feeling knowing everyone wants to beat you,” Williams said. “We’ve gotten used to it and use it to as fuel to practice harder.”
Tucker said his goals for the team at this point include getting good grades, fighting for every point and “just trying to win.”
The men’s tennis team continued its home winning streak by defeating Butler, 7-0, in a double-header at the Varsity Indoor Tennis Center Wednesday afternoon.
OSU followed that with a second victory on Wednesday night against Xavier. The Buckeyes won, 2-0.
The team will now prepare for Mississippi State, which will visit Columbus, Ohio, at noon Sunday.