Even though classes were just canceled because of cold weather, things are starting to heat up at the Varsity Tennis Center as the Ohio State men’s tennis team looks to begin another championship season.
Despite losing five players, including 2013 NCAA Singles Champion Blaz Rola, the Buckeyes find themselves ranked No. 5 to start the season in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll. There might be lofty expectations for a young team looking to continue a historic run of success, but coach Ty Tucker said fans shouldn’t be surprised if the talent overcomes the inexperience.
“We have some work to do,” Tucker said. “We definitely have the chips, but we just have to figure out the best way to use them.”
When asked who could fill the open spots from last year’s team, Tucker first pointed to true freshman Herkko Pollanen and redshirt-freshman Ralf Steinbach, along with redshirt-juniors Kevin Metka and Hunter Callahan. Pollanen, who came to Columbus by way of Helsinki, Finland, reached No. 16 in the junior rankings before making his way to campus.
Perhaps Tucker’s most valuable chip, though, is senior Peter Kobelt.
After flipping between No. 1 and No. 2 singles with Rola last year, Kobelt looks to have that spot all to himself in 2014. He has momentum heading into the season from helping the U.S. capture the gold medal at the Master’U BNP Paribas international collegiate team competition in Aix-en-Provence, France.
“It was a great opportunity to play in a high quality tournament against the best all over the world.” Kobelt said. “We played high quality tennis for four days, represented the USA and won.”
The team’s high ranking should be put to the test all season as there are seven teams ranked inside the top 30 on OSU’s schedule.
“At Ohio State, we try our best to play the greatest and best in the country,” Tucker said.
Even with a treacherous schedule and four of the starting six being first-time starters, the goal for the team remains the same.
“The goal is to win the Big Ten title,” Tucker said.
Considering the team has won seven titles in eight years, anything less could be viewed as a letdown, Kobelt said.
“Our goal is to always win the Big Ten. The Big Ten is ours,” Kobelt said, “I don’t want to lose it in my last year.”
The Buckeyes begin play Jan. 22 against Butler and Xavier in Columbus.