Mark Batke / Lantern reporter
The No. 4 Ohio State men’s tennis team is looking to keep its undefeated record at home this season in tact when it hosts Notre Dame and LSU this weekend.
The Buckeyes (10-2) head into the matchups coming off a trip to the semifinals in the International Tennis Association (ITA) Team Indoor Championship in Seattle, Wash.
OSU secured shutout victories against two ranked opponents during the tournament run, beating both then-No. 13 California and then-No. 5 Pepperdine, 4-0, before falling to No. 1 Virginia, 4-3, in semifinal play.
In the semifinal loss to the Cavaliers, OSU doubles tandems continued their 2013 win streak when the teams of junior Blaz Rola and redshirt sophomore Kevin Metka and redshirt senior Devin McCarthy and junior Ille Van Engelen won their matches, 8-4 and 8-6, respectively.
In singles, after a 6-4, 6-2 victory from Rola, OSU forfeited its 2-0 lead as redshirt sophomore Hunter Callahan, redshirt freshman Chris Diaz and McCarthy all lost their individual matches.
A win by senior Connor Smith tied the match 3-3 before the Cavaliers captured the winning point in a showdown featuring the top two players in the nation, Virginia’s Alex Domijan (No. 1) and OSU’s redshirt junior Peter Kobelt (No. 2). The scoreboard favored Domijan, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
“We got the doubles point, and seemed to be off on the right foot,” said coach Ty Tucker. “Overall, the guys fought hard and played hard.”
The close loss against the nation’s top team in Virginia gave the Buckeyes optimism for how the team will fare down the stretch.
“We noticed that we have a pretty good team,” McCarthy said. “We have some guys who are stepping up. We obviously lost to the No. 1 team in the country, so just trying to build upon that and realizing that at the end of the year we could win a national title.”
Van Engelen said the team knew they had the potential to knock off Virginia but fell short.
“(The loss) is also perspective for the future, because they are the No. 1 team in the country and have amazing players, so if we can compete with them so closely now, that’s perfect,” Van Engelen said.
Since both losses for the Buckeyes this season have taken place on the road, facing off against No. 25 Notre Dame and No. 24 LSU in Columbus should serve as an advantage for OSU, which has not lost at home in more than 150 matches.
“The guys are comfortable here. We have two very good teams coming in, and we need to play good tennis,” said assistant coach Justin Kronauge. “After a tough loss, I think they are ready to get out there and put on a good show this weekend.”
With only several matches before conference play kicks off, OSU players plan on keeping a high level of intensity on the court.
“Especially since we are traveling to North Carolina right after (this weekend), it’s important to get back into the rhythm, win our matches and get back in the flow,” Van Engelen said.
McCarthy credited Tucker for always telling the team to focus on “getting 10 percent better” and then seeing where the team is by the end of the season.
“I think it’s kind of to this point where it’s ‘push through,'” McCarthy said. “You never know at the end of the season – we might win (a national title).”
The matches against Notre Dame and LSU are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Both matches are set to begin at noon at the Varsity Tennis Center.