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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 33rd-ranked Ohio State women’s tennis team begins its 2011 campaign with a home doubleheader Sunday, Jan. 23 against the University of Cincinnati and Cleveland State University. The Buckeyes face the Bearcats at 11 a.m. and the Vikings at 7 p.m. inside the OSU Varsity Tennis Center (880 Henderson Road). Admission to all Ohio State regular season home matches is free.

BUCKEYES GO PINK
The doubleheader is a part of the Buckeyes Go Pink fundraiser. All proceeds from raffles and donations will go toward the Stefanie Spielman Fund.

Courtside tables are available to rent for a $25 donation. To rent a table, contact women’s tennis manager Carrie Smith at (614) 264-9661. See the attached flyer above for more information.

SCOUTING THE BEARCATS
Ohio State is 14-0 all-time against Cincinnati. The last meeting between UC and OSU came in 2007, when the Buckeyes opened the season against the Bearcats with a 7-0 victory.

Cincinnati finished the 2009-10 season with an 11-13 record, including a 3-3 ledger in Big East play. Senior Ksenia Slynko led the Bearcats with 16 wins a season ago, as well as posting a 12-5 mark at the No. 1 position. UC opens its season Saturday with a match on the road at Purdue.

PREVIEWING THE VIKINGS
The Buckeyes are 5-0 all-time against the Vikings. The teams met last year in Ohio State’s opening-day doubleheader as the Scarlet and Gray shut out CSU, 7-0.

Cleveland State notched 15 wins last season on the way to a 7-1 Horizon League record and trip to the conference tournament semifinals. Catrine Bjerrehus will once against play at No. 1 for the Vikings. The junior has earned first-team All-Horizon League accolades in each of her first two seasons. Sophomores Maria Lazaris and Nicole Janek, both second-team All-Horizon selections a year ago, also return for the Vikings.

A LOOK AHEAD
Following the doubleheader against Cincinnati and Cleveland State, the Buckeyes travel to Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 30-31 for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend event. Ohio State will face Tennessee in the first match of the event before facing either Mississippi or SMU the following day.

With wins in both matches, the Buckeyes will be invited to play in the Feb. 18-21 ITA National Team Indoor Championship at the Boar’s Head Sports Club, hosted by the University of Virginia.

OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
Ohio State is 23-10 in season openers, including an 11-2 mark under current head coach Chuck Merzbacher. The Buckeyes also hold a 13-1 opening-day doubleheader ledger under Merzbacher.

Last season the Buckeyes swept Xavier and Cleveland State in their opening-day doubleheader by a combined score of 14-0. The Scarlet and Gray went on to win nine of their first 10 matches in 2010.

IN THE POLLS
Junior Kelsey Haviland is the lone nationally ranked Buckeye in singles, sneaking into the final spot at No. 125, and is rated No. 15 in the Midwest Region. She is also one-half of the 50th-ranked doubles duo, joining sophomore Gabby Steele. The tandem is ranked No. 4 in the Midwest.

The senior twosome of Cami Hubbs and Paloma Escobedo appears just below Steele and Haviland at No. 64 nationally and No. 10 in the Midwest. Escobedo begins the season ranked No. 6 in singles in the Midwest Region.

The team began last season ranked 38th in the nation before reaching a program-record No. 17 ranking in February.

TOP OF THE CHARTS
Sophomore Fidan Manashirova leads the team in singles wins (10) this season, followed closely by classmate Kara Cecil and freshman Noelle Malley, who have both notched nine victories. Freshman Kelsey Becker has set the pace in doubles wins with five.

LEADING THE WAY
Ohio State women’s tennis seniors Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs were named captains of the 2011 team, head coach Chuck Merzbacher announced. Along with the two seniors, junior Kelsey Haviland will join the group as an assistant captain.

“All three have been leaders throughout their careers and are committed to taking our program to even higher heights,” Merzbacher said. “They all represent the university, athletics department and team on and off the court with class and sportsmanship. It is going to be a successful year because of their love of Ohio State and our program.”

IN THE COMMUNITY
All nine members of the Ohio State women’s tennis team, along with the full coaching staff, visited The Olympic Tennis Club Saturday, January 8 for a “friendraising” event. More than 40 members of the club came out to meet and play with the team. Head coach Chuck Merzbacher and his staff (assistant coach Sadhaf Fath and volunteer assistant coach Phil Zunshine) showed the members of the club how the team practices and prepares for matches.

CALIFORNIAN DUO DOMINATES OSU VARSITY OPEN
Sophomore Buckeye Fidan Manshirova claimed both titles at the 2011 Ohio State Varsity Open, winning the singles title and joining with teammate Kelsey Becker for the doubles championship.

Manashirova defeated Dayton’s Claire Dryer in the singles main draw semifinals, 6-3, 6-3, to set up a Buckeye showdown in the final after freshman Becker rallied to win the final two sets and take her semifinal match against Alex Power, 6-7, 6-4, 10-5.

In the singles final, the sophomore found her groove on the way to a 6-0, 6-0 victory against teammate Becker.

The two joined for the doubles final against Dayton’s Dryer and Kirkland, where the Buckeye tandem battled past the Flyers duo, 8-6.

A LOOK BACK AT THE FALL
The Buckeyes began the fall slate of tournaments with a showing at the Eck Tennis Classic, hosted by Notre Dame. Gabby Steele advanced the furthest in main draw singles, falling to eventual bracket champion Kristen Rafael of Notre Dame in the quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-3. Overall, the Buckeyes finished with 13 singles victories and a pair of doubles wins.

Members of the Scarlet and Gray traveled to the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships for the second season in a row when Paloma Escobedo, Cami Hubbs and Kelsey Haviland made an appearance at the prestigious event. Escobedo advanced past the first round of prequalifying singles with a victory over third-seeded Gabriela Mejia of the University of Miami, 6-3, 6-4, before falling in the second round to UCLA’s Pamela Montez. Haviland battled Connie Chieh Yu Hsu of Penn, but couldn’t outmuscle her opponent, falling 6-3, 6-2. In doubles, Haviland and Hubbs combined to post a victory over Stiles and Venter of Kentucky, 8-2, after falling from qualifying doubles following a loss to Brook and Clark of Yale, 8-4.

At the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional, Kara Cecil and Noelle Malley advanced through qualifying singles to earn berths in main draw singles, joining Hubbs, Haviland, Escobedo and Steele in the event. Cecil and Haviland advanced to the third round before falling to teammate Escobedo and Kate Turvy of Northwestern, respectively. Escobedo fell in the quarterfinals to Notre Dame’s Kristy Frilling. In doubles, the twosome of Haviland and Steele advanced to the semifinals before falling to the duo of White and Falkin of Illinois.

The Scarlet and Gray closed out the fall with simultaneous events in New Hampshire and Arizona at the Big Green Invite, hosted by Dartmouth, and the Arizona State Thunderbird Invitational. The Buckeyes finished with six singles victories and a pair of doubles wins at the Thunderbird, while the remaining members of the team racked up 13 singles wins and three doubles victories.