After coming close each of the previous three seasons, the members of the Ohio State men’s tennis team can finally call themselves indoor champions.
Playing in their fourth match against a ranked opponent in as many days, the No. 5 Buckeyes defeated No. 3 USC 4-1 Monday afternoon to claim the ITA Men’s Team Indoor Championship in Houston.
Starting the match off strong for the Buckeyes, the No. 2-ranked duo of senior Peter Kobelt and redshirt-junior Kevin Metka defeated senior Ray Sarmiento and junior Yannick Hanfmann, 6-4.
Redshirt-sophomore Chris Diaz and redshirt-freshman Ralf Steinbach then defeated junior Eric Johnson and sophomore Max de Vroome 6-4 to capture the doubles point for the Buckeyes. Diaz and Steinbach had not won a doubles match the whole weekend, but came up big when it mattered most.
“We were able to set the tone early on and Steinbach and Diaz fought back with five straight points in doubles to get it started,” OSU coach Ty Tucker said after the win, according to a press release. “We rode Metka and Kobelt hard at No. 1 all weekend and they were able to win all of their matches for us.”
Kobelt called earning the doubles point “huge.”
“We didn’t get the first point against Virginia and we are a much better team when we win in doubles. I know I had to play at my best for us to win vs. USC,” Kobelt said, according to the release. “This trophy we are bringing back is for all the former members that have played at Ohio State. This is a great accomplishment.”
Redshirt-junior Hunter Callahan and Kobelt set the pace in singles as both took on higher-ranked opponents, but did not yield.
Callahan was off first after beating No. 47-ranked junior Johnny Wang 6-3, 6-4. Kobelt, ranked No. 23, followed suit defeating No. 7 Sarmiento by the same mark.
Diaz lost to No. 16 Hanfmann 6-5 (7-4), 6-3 to give the Trojans one point, but Steinbach squashed any hope of a comeback by beating freshman Connor Farren 6-5 (7-4), 6-4 to clinch the championship for the Buckeyes.
“To help the team clinch the match is an unbelievable feeling,” Steinbach said, according to the release. “I was up a set and playing good tennis then I realized after Peter won, I had a chance to serve for the title. I was a little nervous. The deciding point came down to a volley and I was aggressive at the net and was able to place a good shot for the clinching point.”
It is the first indoor national title for the Buckeyes in program history, who had to defeat some of the nation’s best on the way.
OSU took down No. 12 Florida, No. 10 Texas and No. 1 Virginia in consecutive days to set up its championship tilt with the Trojans (7-1).
“When you beat two teams back-to-back that have been dominating college tennis the last five years, it’s a great accomplishment,” Tucker said in a released statement. “Everyone is playing for the team and the only thing that matters to these guys is that Ohio State wins.”
At 13-0, this is the best start in program history, and with already one national championship in hand, expectations are likely to be sky high for the remainder of the season.
The Buckeyes are next scheduled to play Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind. Saturday. First serve is set for noon.