Coming off of one last win before its first Big Ten match, the Ohio State’s men’s tennis team has its sights set on more familiar opponents, possibly in unfamiliar conditions.
Eleven of the No. 8 Buckeyes’ final 15 matches are part of Big Ten play, with the first conference match coming Friday against Penn State in State College, Pa.
“All the teams are really used to each other because they’ve played so many times,” redshirt-junior Chris Diaz said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere (than non-conference play).”
Winning the Big Ten Championship is a primary goal for OSU, and the Buckeyes are ready for the fight it will take, Diaz added.
Coach Ty Tucker said he believes the Buckeyes will have to go more on the defensive against Big Ten teams that are looking to topple his team than against non-conference opponents.
“We’ve got a good ranking … Everybody wants to beat us,” Tucker said. “If they beat us, they make the NCAA Tournament, so we don’t have any easy matches coming up.”
Although these teams know each other well, being in the Big Ten brings uncertainty in every match as to whether they will play indoors or outside.
“It’s tough. The transition is difficult being in the Big Ten. You never know … You don’t know will we be outside, will we be inside?” Tucker said. “March 15, if the weather says we’re outside, we’re outside, so you have to be ready to play outside.”
The decision of whether play outside is based on multiple factors, including temperatures and wind speed. The temperature must be above 50 degrees and wind must be below 20 mph for at least two hours on the day of the predicted match time to play outside.
It’s not just the decision to play outside or not that brings uncertainty, though, Diaz said.
“The conditions are a lot slower (outside), so you have to really get used to it. You have to have a lot more footwork and the ball’s not going to be where you think it is all the time,” Diaz said.
The Buckeyes do not have an easy road through the rest of the season, but Tucker said they are right where they need to be, even after losing two matches at the NCAA Indoor Championships before beating Notre Dame last weekend. The win put OSU at 11-3 this season.
“I thought we got beat, I didn’t think we lost,” Tucker said. “Right now we got to concentrate on getting better and making sure that the confidence is kept up. “
OSU’s matchup with Penn State is set for 3 p.m. before the Buckeyes head back to Columbus to take on Oklahoma on March 6.