Lantern file photo
The No. 4-ranked Ohio State men’s tennis team opened up the spring schedule on a high note.
OSU (2-0) defeated Butler and Xavier, 7-0 and 6-1, respectively, in matches in Columbus Wednesday night. The Buckeyes won all of their doubles matches and lost just one singles match against the Bulldogs and Musketeers. OSU redshirt junior Peter Kobelt, the No. 1-ranked singles player in the country, won both of his matches to improve to 16-3 on the season.
The Buckeyes, which are coming off a 2012 campaign that saw them finish No. 4 in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association top 25.
OSU hopes to continue such success under coach Ty Tucker, who has guided the Buckeyes to seven consecutive Big Ten regular-season titles since 2006.
This spring, under an experienced coaching staff and several key returners, the team is focusing on consistency and leadership.
“The team goals are always the same, to overachieve and that seniors have their best years … we get a lot of mileage out of guys who have been three or four years into the program,” Tucker said. “If seniors are having their best years, it says a lot about the coaching staff because we were able to keep them motivated.”
This spring, the Buckeyes face a daunting schedule that includes eight opponents currently ranked in the top 20 of the latest ITA poll (No. 6 Georgia, No. 24 LSU, No. 18 North Carolina, No. 7 Pepperdine, No. 22 Indiana, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 16 Illinois and No. 20 Michigan). Amid the challenges that loom ahead, some members of the team said they’re confident in their offseason preparation and high level of returning talent.
“These guys play year-round, so the preparation is constant, and I think that’s unique to what we’re doing … that these guys are committed tennis players year-round,” said volunteer assistant coach David Schilling. “Because of that, when the season does come, these guys are really anxious to play, and it’s kind of like a reward for all their hard work.”
Key returning contributors for the 2013 season are senior Connor Smith and redshirt freshman Chris Diaz, both of whom are ranked in the top 30 in singles nationally. Then there’s Kobelt, who is poised as the national favorite in the singles game.
The redshirt junior has also quickly assumed a leadership role among his teammates.
“(I want to) keep getting better every day. I’m not really worried about my results, I’ve had a pretty good season so far in the fall,” Kobelt said. “For me, it’s really about setting a good example for the guys and leading the best I can … that will give us the best opportunity to do well.”
The Buckeyes also boast the longest active home win streak in Division I collegiate tennis, having won 148 consecutive matches played in Columbus, and rattling off a 19-0 home record in 2012. Being a constant threat at home is something Kobelt said he hopes continues.
“It’s more mental for the teams that come and play us, because they all know the record, but it’s something that we try not to think about … but it’s a pretty cool record, and we’ll do everything we can to keep it intact,” he said.
A home record such as the Buckeyes’ will contribute to the already promising stage set for the 2013 season. The balance of strong preparation, talent and leadership is causing coaches to deliver high praise to the 2013 squad.
“This is probably the deepest team (Ty and I) have had. We’re 10, 11 guys deep on this team, and it’s a good blend of experience and some new, young talent,” Schilling said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can play in some big matches for us.”