With one season of competition under his belt as head coach of the Buckeye tennis program, Ty Tucker is not about to give back what Ohio State claimed last season.
“Our goal is to get back to the NCAA tournament like we did last season,” Tucker said. “We want to play the best that we can and try to win a Big Ten championship.”
OSU’s NCAA tournament trip was the first for the Buckeye program. They also posted their first tournament victory when they defeated Boise State.
The Buckeyes return all players from a team that went 14-11 overall and 7-5 in the Big Ten. They also have added two freshmen that could have an impact on the season.
One scenario for OSU, other than a return trip to the NCAA tournament for the team competition, is to improve its Big Ten record.
After winning their first conference matches since the 1996-97 season, the Buckeyes hope to see the number of wins increase.
“Winning Big Ten matches was definitely a great highlight for us last year,” Tucker said. “We went into the season hoping to take one conference match and ended up taking seven. The hope of winning is gone and the expectation of winning is much higher this year.”
Reaping The Rewards
The productive 1999-00 campaign has earned the Buckeyes a spot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Preseason Poll.
In the team rankings, OSU was given the No. 35 spot.
“The ranking is great for us,” Tucker said. “I feel we are a Top 50 team and to see us at (No.) 35 is a step in the right direction for us.”
Three Buckeyes also were dubbed as some of the top players in the nation.
In singles play, Phillip Metz (So., Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) was ranked No. 92 following a season in which he compiled an overall mark of 27-12. His 27 wins were second only to teammate Chris Porter’s (Sr., Canton, Ohio/Jackson) 36. “Phil had a great year and we look to him to have an even better year,” Tucker said. “There are not many sophomores ranked in the Top 100. His ranking says a lot about the skill he has.”
In doubles, the team of Porter and Andrew Carlson (Sr., Gambrills, Md./Arundel) were ranked as the No. 8 duo in the nation. Porter and Carlson were second in wins last year after compiling a 23-6 record. Only the team of Bob Wellstein (Sr., Perrysburg, Ohio./Perrysurg) and Derek DeFalco (Sr., Maumee, Ohio/Maumee) led the Buckeyes in doubles wins with 26 while dropping only seven decisions.
“We would love to see these guys remain in the rankings all year,” Tucker said. “The best situation would be Porter and Carlson going (to the NCAA tournament) for doubles while Metz plays in the singles bracket.”
Roll Out The Welcome Mat
The team has situated itself with a deep lineup by adding three new players to the fold. All three will look to make an immediate contribution to the Buckeye program.
Brenton Contini (Fr., Dover, Ohio/Dover) and Ben Kirksey (Fr., Canton, Ohio/McKinley) enter OSU as freshman while Martin Johannson (Jr., Bastad, Sweden/Physical Education) will be a junior after transferring from Vincenes (Ind.) University.
Contini enters the Buckeye roster after lettering for four years for the Tornadoes. Contini placed fourth in the state championships as a freshman. He also made an impact in the fall season by taking second to fellow Buckeye Ben Kirksey at the Rocket Indoor (10/15/00) and compiled an overall record of 4-1 in singles and 4-0 in doubles.
Kirksey also was a four-year letterwinner for his high school and captured third and fourth place during his senior and junior campaigns, respectively.
Kirksey, likewise, had a stellar fall by finishing with the Rocket Indoor championship in Singles B flight (10/15/00). He totaled five wins and one loss.
“Both of these freshmen come into OSU as two of the top players in Ohio from last year,” Tucker said. “They both could be ready to step-up and compete for us.”
Johannson gives Tucker another player to add to the depth of the squad. Johannson also enters the year with two seasons of experience at Vincennes where he started both years. He ended the fall 8-3 in singles and 3-2 in doubles.
“Martin brings great depth to our team,” Tucker said. “He will give us a strong, left-handed player to utilize.”
One More Time Around
The 2000-01 season marks the completion of the careers of Porter, Carlson, Wellstein, DeFalco and B.J. Munroe (Sr., Freeport, Bahamas/Freeport), the five seniors on the team.
“It will be tough to replace the talents that all of them bring,” Tucker said. “It will especially be tough to see Porter, Wellstein and DeFalco leave because we all arrived at Ohio State together. Carlson and Munroe have served this team well and will be tough to replace as well.”
In his three year tender, Porter’s record stands at 75-48 in singles and 50-36 in doubles. His singles wins total places him 11th overall in OSU history and the 36 victories he recorded last year placed him in the third overall spot in the history books.
Carlson stands 42-42 in singles and 39-46 in doubles while Munroe, after playing only one season for the Scarlet and Gray, stands 0-3 in singles and 6-7 in doubles.
DeFalco is 33-56 in singles and is 48-27 in doubles. The 48 doubles victories enter him in the record books at 14th, tied with Ted Glavas (1986-89). He also is tied with Richard Berry’s 1996 record of 30 doubles wins in one year.
Wellstein is 46-46 in singles and 35-27 in doubles. Twenty-six of his doubles victories came last year, which is tied for third all-time with Stephan Miguel (1988).
“These guys have accomplished a lot in their days at Ohio State,” Tucker said. “I am glad that they made it to the tournament last year. I hope they can finish on a good note by going back this year.”
Another Tough Schedule
The 2000-01 schedule is again filled with many opponents that the ITA has ranked as some of the best in the nation.
In their non-conference schedule, 12 duals in all, the Buckeyes will face five teams that are ranked in the Top 75 in the nation. OSU will play host to No. 34 Notre Dame, No. 61 DePaul and No. 39 Loisville and travel to No. 69 Virginia Tech and No. 29 Indiana State.
“We have a tough road schedule and a couple of tough home matches as well,” Tucker said. “We need to be prepared when we take the court and play the way that we can play.”
The Usual Suspects
The Big Ten is again littered with teams ranked in the preseason Top 75. Including the Buckeyes, the Big Ten has eight of its 11 teams ranked.
Leading the Big Ten is No. 6 Illinois. The Illini enter the 2000-01 campaign as the defending Big Ten Champions after winning all 10 matches a year ago.
Also in the rankings are No. 20 Minnesota, No. 23 Michigan, No. 27 Indiana, No. 35 Ohio State, No. 38 Purdue, No. 54 Northwestern and No. 75 Wisconsin.
“The Big Ten is again very competitive,” Tucker said. “The only down side to our conference schedule is that we will play six of our ten matches on the road.”