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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 33 Ohio State women’s tennis team will travel to Knoxville, Tenn., this weekend to compete in the 2011 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-Off Weekend. The Buckeyes (2-0) join No. 27 Southern Methodist (3-0) and No. 17 Mississippi (1-0) and host school No. 12 Tennessee (1-0) in the event. 

THE 2011 ITA KICK-OFF WEEKEND
Ohio State faces Tennessee at 2 p.m. ET Sunday at the Goodfriend Tennis Center after the 9 a.m. match between SMU and Mississippi. The winners and losers of the two matches will face each other Monday. The winner of the title match will earn a spot in the 2011 ITA National Team Indoor Championships at the Boar’s Head Sports Club hosted by the University of Virginia Feb. 12-15. Live scoring for the matches in Tennessee can be found here – http://www.utladyvols.com/livestats/w-tennis/xlive.htm. 

LOOKING AHEAD
Following the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, the Buckeyes travel to Lexington, Ky., to face the University of Kentucky Feb. 3. Ohio State then returns home to host Penn State Feb. 11 on Campus Kids’ Day and William & Mary Feb. 13.

OHIO STATE IN THE BOOKS
2-10: record vs. Tennessee
1-0: record vs. SMU
0-0: record vs. Mississippi
2-0: 2011 season record

A LOOK AT THE VOLUNTEERS
Tennessee kicked off its season on the road with a close, 4-3 win over No. 25 Illinois Jan. 23. Last season the Volunteers finished 19-9, including a 16-9 ledger against nationally ranked opponents, behind the efforts of graduated singles and doubles All-American Caitlin Whoriskey and doubles partner Natalie Pluskota.

Pluskota has picked up the role of No. 1 singles while teaming up with newcomer Brynn Boren at No. 1 doubles. The 20th-ranked Boren led the team in singles victories in the fall, tallying 15. Boren is joined in the singles rankings by Rosalia Alda at No. 87 and Maria Sorbello at No. 116.

Alda and freshman Millie Nichols are ranked No. 9 in doubles, followed closely by Boren and Sorbello at No. 19.

The Buckeyes and Volunteers met last season in Columbus, Ohio. Tennessee took the match, 5-2, ending Ohio State’s flawless home record. The teams will face each other again this season, as the Buckeyes travel back to Knoxville March 23.

A GLIMPSE AT THE MUSTANGS
Southern Methodist finished 24-5 last season, including a flawless 6-0 Conference USA record. Marta Lesniak notched 29 singles wins for the Mustangs last year, as well as logging a 22-3 record at No. 1 singles, to earn 2010 C-USA Player of the Year honors. She joined with Aleks Malyarchikova to earn a 16-9 doubles record.

This season, Lesniak has nearly tied her singles mark from 2010 with 20 victories only three matches into the year. Behind only Jana Juricova of California, Lesniak is ranked No. 2 in the nation in singles. She also forms the 29th-ranked doubles combination with teammate Heather Steinbauer.

The only previous meeting between the Mustangs and the Buckeyes came in 1996, when Ohio State edged out a 5-4 victory at home.

PREVIEWING MISSISSIPPI
The Rebels capped off their 2010 season with a No. 17 ranking and a runner-up finish in the Southeastern Conference. Led by All-Americans Kristi Boxx and Karen Nijssen, Ole Miss advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 1999.

Boxx, a junior, returns for the Rebels after posting 17 singles victories a season ago. The 21st-ranked singles player in the nation shared the team lead for singles victories in the fall with the 124th-ranked senior Connor Vogel (10).

A YEAR AGO…
The Buckeyes traveled to Fresno, Calif., for the 2010 ITA National Indoor Qualifier and quickly made a statement in the upset of 15th-ranked Fresno State, Ohio State’s biggest win since a 4-3 victory against No. 16 Wichita State in 2007.

The Buckeyes couldn’t pull off their second upset of the weekend against No. 25 Florida State in the title match, however. The Seminoles took the doubles point and five of six singles matches to win, 6-1.

TOP OF THE CHARTS
Sophomore Fidan Manashirova leads the team in singles wins (12) this season, followed closely by classmate Kara Cecil with 11 victories. Manashirova has won nine consecutive matches, beginning with a win against Boston University’s Petra Santini at the Big Green Invite Nov. 5, 2010, against opponents from eight schools, including teammate Kelsey Becker. Each victory has been in straight sets for the sophomore from Elk Grove, Calif.

Cecil is on a five-match win streak.

In doubles, four Buckeyes share the team lead. Kelsey Haviland, Cami Hubbs, Noelle Malley and Gabby Steele have all notched six wins.

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.

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.”

BUCKEYES SWEEP VIKINGS AT HOME
The 33rd-ranked Ohio State women’s tennis team capped off its “Buckeyes Go Pink” doubleheader with a 7-0 win over Cleveland State at home in the Varsity Tennis Center Sunday night. The Buckeyes were victorious in all nine matches.

“Both teams we played today have improved,” Ohio State head coach Chuck Merzbacher said of Cincinnati and Cleveland State. “They played well. Today was a good test with a lot of good sets. We were all excited to get the season started.”

In doubles, the top-ranked Buckeye tandem of Kelsey Haviland and Gabby Steele, ranked 50th in the nation, was victorious against Cleveland State’s Kara Sherwood and Alex Power, 8-2. The Ohio State duo of Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs followed with a 8-4 win against Catrine Bjerrehus and Alex Bush.
Kara Cecil and Noelle Malley, playing on court three, defeated the Vikings’ Maria Lazaris and Sanda Bjelan, 8-5.

Fidan Manashirova provided the first singles victory for the Buckeye, defeating Mengdi Lu on court five, 6-2, 6-0. Next to Manashirova on court six, Hubbs also picked up a straight sets victory, downing Lazaris, 6-2, 6-0.

At the top spot, Escobedo outplayed Cleveland State’s top singles player in Bjerrehus, 6-2, 6-1, for her second straight sets victory of the day and the clinching point of the match.

On court two, Haviland, ranked No. 125 nationally, proved victorious in a 6-3, 6-3 decision against Sherwood.

Cecil battled Power to a third set on court three after dropping the second set 6-4. The sophomore Buckeye out-powered her opponent in the super tiebreaker for the win, 6-2, 4-6, 10-6. On court four, Gabby Steele guaranteed the flawless mark for Ohio State after taking her match against Bush in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.

The Buckeyes downed the Cincinnati Bearcats, 7-0, earlier in the day for the first win of the 2011 season. The Sunday doubleheader was a part of “Buckeyes Go Pink,” a fundraiser for the Stefanie Spielman Fund. The event drew more than 370 fans to the OSU Varsity Tennis Center.

With the win, Ohio State improves to 15-1 in opening-day doubleheaders under head coach Merzbacher. Last season the Buckeyes swept Xavier and Cleveland State in their opening day doubleheader by a combined score of 14-0.

BUCKEYES OPEN 2011 SEASON WITH A BANG
The No. 33 Ohio State women’s tennis team shut out the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats, 7-0, in the Buckeyes’ first dual match of the 2011 season, sweeping doubles and taking all six singles matches. The Scarlet and Gray host the Cleveland State Vikings tonight at 7 p.m. at the OSU Varsity Tennis Center in the second half of the “Buckeyes Go Pink” season-opening doubleheader.

The Buckeyes were firing on all cylinders in doubles, taking each match. Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs downed Cincinnati’s top doubles tandem of Jasmine Lee and Ksenia Slynko, 8-1, while Kelsey Haviland and Gabby Steele defeated Caitlin O’Gara and Lindsey Lonergan, 8-1, on court two to clinch the doubles point.

Kara Cecil and Noelle Malley finished off the Bearcats’ Elise Woulfe and Ashleigh Witte, 8-3, on court three to complete the sweep.

Escobedo, the top Buckeye in singles, bested Ksenia Slynko in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1, followed closely by Fidan Manashirova’s 6-1, 6-0 victory against UC’s Saffiya Ismail on court six.

Hubbs clinched the match for Ohio State with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 win over Lonergan on court five. Cecil added a fifth point for the Buckeyes after downing Ashleigh Witte, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), on court three after battling back from a 2-4 deficit in the second set.

Steele kept the shutout alive with a 6-2, 6-2 win against O’Gara on court four and Haviland, ranked No. 125 in the nation, wrapped up the match on a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Lee at the second spot.