Caitlin Essig / Arts editor
Millions of people flocked to movie theaters about 10 years ago to see Marlin the clown fish embark on a journey to find his son in Disney-Pixar’s newest animated release, “Finding Nemo.”
Around the same time, the Ohio State men’s tennis team had just come off a 5-2 home loss to then-top ranked Illinois.
Both situations called for a similar mentality: just keep swimming.
The Buckeyes secured a decade-long home win streak on Friday – the longest active win streak in all of NCAA sports – to the tune of a 7-0 victory against Wisconsin. The 164-match win streak began the day after the April 5, 2003, Illinois loss in Columbus.
Later in the weekend, the Buckeyes continued their dominance in the Big Ten as they cruised to another 7-0 victory against Minnesota (9-9, 5-2) in Columbus, as well as a 4-0 win against Wright State (12-8, 3-0). The pair of wins further extended the home win streak to 166 consecutive matches.
OSU was able to play the Minnesota match on their outdoor courts, marking the first time in the 2013 season the Buckeyes have played outside at home, something some of the players were happy about.
“Me being from Florida, it was a tough winter, so I liked getting outside … I like playing in the wind … so it was nice, and a beautiful day,” said senior Connor Smith.
Just as Disney-Pixar recently announced a “Finding Nemo” sequel slated for 2015, there is still more adventure ahead for this OSU squad.
“We have other goals that we would say are more important (than the win streak) – winning the Big Ten and maybe making a run in the NCAA (tournament),” Kobelt said.
Leading up to the Wisconsin match, OSU coach Ty Tucker said, “It’s a mark you want to achieve, and being one match away from it, it’ll be nice if we can get the win … it’ll be nice to be done with it.” The No. 5 Buckeyes (23-2, 7-0) left no doubt that they wanted the win against the Badgers (10-9, 1-6) on Friday, who never even amassed a point against the record-breaking Buckeyes.
OSU athletic director Gene Smith was at the match, and heaped praise upon Tucker, who has coached the team since 1999.
“Ty (Tucker) is an outstanding recruiter, he’s a good teacher, he recruits great kids,” Smith said. “One day he’ll win a national championship – I believe that. It’s just a matter of the bounce of the ball here and there … to say that in Ohio, you could possibly win the national championship in tennis is significant.”
Smith went on to say how proud he was of this year’s squad pulling together to accomplish the historic win streak.
“It’s special. I love these kids, they’re great kids, and Ty is one of our best coaches. Having the opportunity to come and support him in this moment … it’s a special thing, it really is,” Smith said.
The Scarlet and Gray dominated in the doubles game against Wisconsin, sealing victories on all three courts. The OSU tandems of junior Blaz Rola and redshirt sophomore Kevin Metka, redshirt senior Devin McCarthy and junior Ille Van Engelen, and redshirt junior Peter Kobelt and Smith defeated their Wisconsin opponents, 8-3, 8-1 and 8-6, respectively. It was the 24th time during the 2013 campaign that OSU had won the doubles point.
In the singles game, the Buckeyes continued to sweep the Badgers. The three singles wins needed to clinch the team victory came from freshman Constantin Christ (6-1, 6-0), Rola (6-2, 6-3), and redshirt sophomore Hunter Callahan (6-4, 6-2). Callahan’s win was the third time he has clinched a victory for OSU this season.
The remaining three singles matches also ended in similar fashion for OSU, with Kobelt winning, 6-3, 6-4, Van Engelen winning, 6-4, 6-2, and McCarthy winning, 6-3, 6-4.
Following the flurry of matches over the weekend, several upperclassmen players reflected on contributing to such a historic program milestone.
“Ten years is a great accomplishment. As players, I feel like we can all take a deep breath of relief and continue on with the rest of our season. It was one of our goals to get to this streak,” Kobelt said.
Some players said how grateful they were to continue the legacy that many famous OSU tennis players have left behind.
“I’m probably just a little, little part of this elite group. … It’s just really a team effort through all those (10) years, … everyone who comes (to OSU) should be honored and proud to play here,” Rola said.
But perhaps completing a decade of dominance at home meant more to no one than Tucker.
“You’ve got great players and a big name behind you in Ohio State. To do something you can hold onto for the rest of my life, … it’s something that might never be broken at Ohio State, a place rich in athletics and tradition,” Tucker said.
Reflecting back over the past decade, Tucker credited his players and his being able to attract all types of talent to play at OSU.
“To look back on everything – we had a nice mix. We had the best players from Ohio, guys that became All-Americans, guys that overachieved. We splashed some good international talent in with them, and they seemed to like each other and have a good time,” he said.
For now, though, Tucker said he’s focusing on the team’s upcoming road tests.
“By no means are they giving out rings or trophies yet, so we’ve got a lot of work to do … We’ve got to get ready for a battle in Illinois and Northwestern this weekend – nothing’s easy,” Tucker said.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to continue Big Ten play this weekend as they face Illinois on Friday at 4 p.m. in Champaign, Ill., and Northwestern Sunday at 1 p.m. in Evanston, Ill.