More than a decade of dominance was culminated in history for the Ohio State men’s tennis team against Northwestern.
The No. 2 Buckeyes (20-2, 5-0) defeated the No. 28 Wildcats, 4-3, Friday at the Varsity Tennis Center for their 185th consecutive home victory, the most by any team in NCAA history.
The Stanford women’s tennis previously held the record, going undefeated in Palo Alto, Calif., from 1999-2011. The Buckeyes began their home dominance with a 5-2 win over Purdue April 5, 2003.
“Obviously you’re happy for the guys in the room. They were able to come together and fight,” OSU coach Ty Tucker said. “For five or six straight matches all we do is talk about the streak. People come out, there’s excitement around tennis because of the streak. Every time we have to rise up and win and we were able to do it. And it wasn’t easy.”
The Wildcats (12-8, 1-3) did their best to come in and put an end to the streak and send the crowd — one that included OSU Director of Athletics and Vice President Gene Smith — home in disappointment.
Doubles play began with the Buckeye duo of redshirt-junior Hunter Callahan and redshirt-freshman Ralf Steinbach breaking serve early and holding on to beat sophomore Mihir Kumar and freshman Konrad Zieba, 8-6.
The Buckeyes’ No. 6-ranked team of senior Peter Kobelt and redshirt-junior Kevin Metka stayed on serve all match with senior Raleigh Smith and freshman Sam Shropshire. In the tiebreak though, Kobelt took over. He was responsible for five points en route to the 8-7 (7-2) victory, securing the doubles point and putting OSU just only three singles wins away from the record.
The Wildcats came out strong in singles, earning three first set wins. Unfortunately for them, they needed one more.
Metka was off first, breaking Kumar’s serve once each set and holding his own serve the whole match to win 6-3, 6-3.
Mere minutes after Metka’s victory, Steinbach dominated his second set tiebreak to defeat junior Alex Pasareanu 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).
With only one more win needed to go down in history, OSU turned again to Kobelt, the captain and lone senior on the squad.
After cruising in the first set, Kobelt found himself tied at five with Smith in their second set. Sensing the match was within grasp, he finally got the break he needed and crossed the court with the chance to win on his serve.
With recording devices of all kind in the air trying to capture the moment, Kobelt fired a huge serve that Smith barely returned over the net. When the ball just made it over, Kobelt smashed it into the corner for the winner and 6-1, 7-5 victory.
Afterwards, Kobelt said he knew he had the opportunity to close things out.
“Our coaches always tell us not to watch the scoreboard, but it’s a pretty nice and big scoreboard, so you end up catching yourself looking up at it,” Kobelt said. “There was a moment where I was like ‘It’s going to come down to me.’”
Although the remaining matches had to be finished before the teams could head to the locker rooms, the crowd stayed the whole time to give the Buckeyes the ovation they deserved.
“I’ll be thinking about it for the rest of my life,” Metka said. “We’ll be in the record books. It’s a really big accomplishment. I’m proud of everyone.”
Despite having an indoor national championship in hand and now an NCAA record, Tucker still wants improvement from his team down the final stretch. Especially with No. 10 Illinois set to come to town Sunday.
“There’s a lot of work left to do and we have to find a way,” Tucker said “A couple spots didn’t show up tonight, so we have to find a way to get that improved over the next 24 to 48 hours.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled take on the Fighting Illini at 12 p.m. Sunday at the Varsity Tennis Center.