COLUMBUS, Ohio – Taking part in the 2010 ITA Kickoff Weekend, the No. 38 Ohio State women’s tennis team will travel to Fresno, Calif., Saturday to compete in one of the 15 ITA National Indoors Qualifier events taking place across the nation. The qualifiers bring together the nation’s top teams in marquee matchups.
The winners of the 15 events will be invited to compete in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison, Wis., Feb 12-15.
Running Down the Lineup
The Buckeyes will be joined in the event by strong competition in the likes of host school No. 15 Fresno State, No. 25 Florida State and No. 26 Virginia.
The Buckeyes will face Fresno State at 5 p.m. ET Saturday. The winners and losers from first-round play will face off on day Sunday. Ohio State will play Florida State or Virginia at 1 p.m. ET, with Fresno State taking on the other school at 5 p.m. ET.
The 2009 Qualifier
The Buckeyes traveled to Durham, N.C., last February for the ITA National Team Indoor Qualifier. Ohio State took on No. 33 South Carolina in the first match of the weekend, winning 4-3, with all four points coming from the No. 3-6 singles spots. Cami Hubbs led the Buckeyes off in singles from the No. 3 spot with a win over Natasa Vuckovic, 6-3, 6-1, and Kelsey Haviland added another win from the No. 5 spot, winning 6-2, 6-3, over Suzanna Mansour. Angela DiPastina gave Ohio State its third point from the No. 6 spot with a 6-3, 6-4,win over Ashley Miller. The clinching point in the match came from Julie Blackmore, sealing a Buckeye victory from the No. 4 spot with a 6-3, 6-3, win over Miljana Jocic.
The second match of the weekend came against No. 9 Duke (the eventual national champion), where the Buckeyes fought hard but couldn’t close the deal, falling 4-2. DiPastina kept her stellar 2009 going, however, winning her fifth-consecutive singles match at the No. 6 spot with a three-set win over Jessi Robinson (6-2, 2-6, 6-2). Blackmore was at the top of her game for the Buckeyes in No. 4 singles, taking down 48th-ranked Amanda Granson in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
The Buckeyes (4-0) began the duals season with four-consecutive shutout wins. In the opening week the Buckeyes defeated Xavier and Cleveland State at home Jan. 19 before hitting the road to down Missouri and Memphis last Saturday.
The four-match win streak puts the Scarlet and Gray at their best start since the 2007-08 season. Ohio State stayed at No. 38 in the most recent ITA polls after the 4-0 start.
Five Buckeyes were 2-0 in singles in the doubleheader vs. Missouri and Memphis last Saturday – Kirsten Flower at No. 1, Paloma Escobedo at No. 2, Christina Keesey and No. 3, Kelsey Haviland at No. 4 and Gabby Steele at No. 5. At No. 6 Fidan Manashirova won her match at No. 6 against Missouri after her match vs. Memphis was abandoned with her leading in the second set.
In doubles the duos of Haviland and Cami Hubbs at No. 1 and Escobedo and Keesey at No. 2 also were 2-0 last Saturday.
As a team, the squad has dropped just one singles set so far this season.
History in the Making
The 2010 Buckeye squad is the first since the 1978-79 team to open the year with four-consecutive wins. That year, Ohio State defeated Miami (Ohio), SW Missouri, Kansas and Missouri to open the season under head coach Barbara Mueller.
Eerily, that team’s last shutout win came against Missouri, who is this year’s most recent shutout win, with a talented Florida State squad ending the Scarlet and Gray’s run in 1979. Florida State is one of the possible opponents for the Buckeyes this weekend.
Haviland Sets Tone for Season
Sophomore Kelsey Haviland was a perfect 8-0 combined during the Buckeyes’ first week of play, winning all of her singles matches in straight sets. She opened the year with two victories at No. 2 singles in the doubleheader Jan. 19, posting wins against Xavier and Cleveland State.
The Buckeyes hit the road for two matches Jan. 23 and she again was 2-0 in a doubleheader, recording victories at No. 4 singles vs. both Memphis and Missouri.
She and doubles partner Cami Hubbs won all four of their matches at No. 1 singles during the week. Against Missouri the duo won in a tiebreaker to clinch the doubles point for the Buckeyes.
Haviland is now 8-3 in singles and 9-2 in doubles on the year.
A Look at the Competition
The Buckeyes are a combined 2-7 against the teams in the qualifier event this weekend.
Ohio State is 3-2 all-time against Virginia. The last time the teams faced each other was in Columbus in 2008, resulting in a 4-3 Cavalier win.
Ohio State has never faced Fresno State.
The Buckeyes are 0-4 against the Seminoles, last meeting in Tallahassee, Fla., during the 1982-83 season.
All three opponents earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament last season and posted at least a first-round win.
Previewing the Bulldogs
Fresno moved up one spot to No. 15. in the most recent ITA polls, despite having yet to compete in any duals this season. The team was slated to participate in the Cal Winter Invitational, but inclement weather led to the cancellation of the event.
The defending WAC champions and Sweet 16 participants are aided by the abilities of senior Anastasia Petukhova, the No. 4-ranked singles player in the country. Leadership from Petukhova and fellow senior Renata Kucerkova is especially valuable to the Bulldogs this season, with five true freshmen hitting the court for the team.
Last year, Fresno advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship after wins over Eastern Kentucky and Illinois. The Bulldogs were knocked out of the tournament by top-seeded Northwestern.
Scouting the Seminoles
Twenty-fifth ranked Florida State enters the weekend 0-1 after a loss to rival South Florida. The ‘Noles fell 5-2 in their initial match of the season.
The Garnet and Gold have the most ranked players of the four teams in the event, led by No. 23 netter Lauren McCreless. Joining her in the rankings are No. 34 Noemie Scharle, No. 62 Francesca Segareli and No. 115 Amy Sargeant.
Florida State’s last ITA Indoors Qualifier appearance ended in a 4-1 defeat to Arizona State in 2008.
Last year the Seminoles finished with a 17-8 ledger, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Two players, Scharle and Katie Rybakova, earned a spot in the NCAA singles championshiop. Scharle advanced to the second round before falling to top-ranked Maria Mosolova of Northwestern.
A Glance at the Cavaliers
One spot behind the Seminoles, No. 26 Virginia is 2-0 following an opening day doubleheader sweep against Illinois and Richmond. The Cavaliers began with a close win against No. 32 Illinois, 4-3, before shutting out in-state foe Richmond.
No. 72 Lindsey Hardenbergh tops the lineup for the Cavaliers. The sophomore is a double-threat on the court, finishing last season with 23 singles wins and 18 doubles wins.
Virginia finished 2009 with 14 victories, including a first-round win in the NCAA tournament against VCU, before falling to eventual national champion Duke in the second round.
Leader on the Court
Fidan Manashirova and Gabby Steele are first on the team with 10 wins each, with just one and two losses, respectively. Cami Hubbs and Kelsey Haviland are first on the squad with nine doubles wins each (against just two losses).
The Buckeyes return to action against Kentucky Feb. 3 at the Varsity Tennis Center in Columbus.