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Ohio State men’s tennis falls short against USC for first loss

Lindsey Fox / Asst. multimedia editor

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As much as the Ohio State men’s tennis team would like to, they just can’t win them all.

The No. 3-ranked squad in the country fell to No. 1-ranked University of Southern California, 4-3, in the championship match of the 2012 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championship on Monday in Charlottesville, Va. The match marked the first loss for OSU (12-1) this season.

“It’s not an easy loss to swallow, especially when it’s that close,” said senior Chase Buchanan.

Sophomore Blaz Rola led the Buckeyes by defeating 18th-ranked sophomore Ray Sarmiento to tie the score at 3-3 after a win against freshman Yannick Hanfmann and senior Steve Johnson in doubles action.

The singles match between Hanfmann and redshirt junior Devin McCarthy would break the tie and declare a title winner. McCarthy won the first set, 6-3, but fell in the next two, 6-3 and 6-4.

Despite the loss, the team still holds a 74-3 record in regular season play.

The Buckeyes last saw USC in the NCAA Championship match on May 19, 2009, when the Trojans prevailed, 4-1.

“It hurts for two days and then we have to keep getting better and move on and get revenge at NCAAs,” Rola said.

OSU has never won a National Team Indoor Championship but has come close in previous years. In 2010, the Buckeyes advanced to the semifinals before losing to Virginia, and then again in 2011.

This year, OSU faced No. 2-ranked Virginia once more in the semifinals, defeating the Cavaliers, 4-1, Sunday and paving the way for the championship.

Rola and Buchanan, ranked first nationally as a pair, fell to senior Drew Courtney and junior Jarmere Jenkins, 9-8.

Buchanan and Rola agreed that playing Virginia was the most difficult part of the weekend.

“We played Virginia at Virginia with all of their fans at a tournament that they haven’t lost in four years,” Buchanan said. “Overcoming that hump was really big.”

The Buckeyes upset Virgina’s freshman Mitchell Frank, the country’s No. 1 singles player, when redshirt sophomore Peter Kobelt edged a 7-5, 7-6 victory. Kobelt handed Frank the first loss of his collegiate career.

In Saturday’s game against undefeated No. 6-ranked Kentucky, the Buckeyes tallied their ninth consecutive win against the Wildcats in a 4-3 match.

OSU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, earning the doubles point and McCarthy’s victory against sophomore Alejandro Gomez, 6-2 and 6-4. Senior Wildcat Eric Quigley cut the lead in half by downing Buchanan.

The score tied at 2 after Kobelt fell. It tied again at 3 apiece following a singles win by junior Connor Smith (6-4, 6-4) and Rola’s loss against senior Alex Musialek (6-2, 6-4).

Kentucky’s sophomore Tom Jomby trailed sophomore Ille Van Engelen by 4 before coming back to tie the score, 5-5. Van Engelen battled Jomby back and forth before clenching the match for the Buckeyes with a 7-5 victory.

“That match had everything: injury timeouts, tight line calls, you name it,” Tucker said in a press release Saturday. “We got lucky there at the end, and we were fortunate to win the match.”

“We expected to win against Texas,” Rola said. “Kentucky we knew was going to be tough.”

OSU swept the No. 14-ranked Texas Longhorns on Friday in the first round of the tournament.

The Rola-Buchanan tandem team defeated freshman Soren Hess-Olesen and redshirt junior Alex Hilliard, 8-2. The Longhorns answered with an 8-3 win against McCarthy and Van Engelen.

The doubles point went to OSU after a tie-breaking matchup between Kobelt and Smith and Texas’s sophomore Sudanwa Sitaram and junior Daniel Whitehead ended 9-8.

McCarthy, Van Engelen and Rola all earned singles points to take the match, 4-0.

Buchanan said that after the USC match, Tucker wanted his team to focus on the games ahead and let the tough loss be a motivator.

“It’s a process,” Buchanan said. “We’ll keep working for it and we’ll get there.”

The Buckeyes return home to the Varsity Tennis Center on Saturday to host Kentucky at 4 p.m. The match will come one week after OSU defeated the Wildcats in the quarterfinals. 

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