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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 31 Ohio State women’s tennis team (2-2) hits the road Wednesday to face the University of Kentucky (0-3) at 1 p.m. in Lexington, Ky., in the Wildcats’ home opener. Live stats for the match can be found at the following link: http://www.ukathletics.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/stats_020911.html. 

LOOKING AHEAD
Following the match against Kentucky, the Buckeyes return home for their Big Ten opener against Penn State Friday at 6 p.m. before taking on William & Mary at 11 a.m. Sunday at the OSU Varsity Tennis Center (880 Henderson Rd.).

OHIO STATE IN THE BOOKS
4-13: all-time record vs. Kentucky
2-1: 2010 record vs. SEC teams
0-1: 2011 road record
2-2: 2011 season record
12-31: Merzbacher vs. SEC
2-7: Merzbacher vs. Kentucky

BUCKEYES HOST CAMPUS KIDS DAY
As part of the United States Tennis Association’s effort to create stronger ties between junior players and collegiate tennis, the Ohio State men’s and women’s tennis teams will participate in USTA Campus Kids’ Day this weekend.

At the women’s match vs. Penn State at 6 p.m. Friday and the men’s contest vs. LSU at 5 p.m. Saturday, fans will have an opportunity to participate in a variety of activities that will help them become more acquainted with the sport.

A list of promotions and activities include:
Free t-shirts to the first 50 fans
Schedule poster giveaway
Register to win prize pack
Racquet stenciling (Block “O”)
Temporary tattoos
T-shirt toss between singles, doubles matches
Postmatch autographs
Free Donatos pizza and refreshments to children 8th grade and under

A LOOK AT THE WILDCATS
Kentucky enters the contest at 0-3 after a rough start with losses on the road to No. 71 Minnesota, No. 55 Marshall and No. 7 Michigan by a combined 17-4 score.

The team is once again led by Megan Broderick at the top of the lineup. The senior is 1-2 at the No. 1 position in duals matches in 2011, including an upset victory against Minnesota’s Natallia Pintusava, ranked 51st in the nation.

FAMILIAR FOES
The Buckeyes have faced the Wildcats three times in the past two years, winning one and dropping two. Two years ago, the first match was held in Lexington, Ky., on the UK home court and finished with a close 4-3 win for the Wildcats. The second match would be the last of the 2009 season for the Buckeyes, taking place in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Evanston, Ill.

Last season, the Buckeyes whitewashed Kentucky at home in the Varsity Tennis Center, 7-0, as part of the team’s 9-1 start.

A YEAR AGO…
The Buckeyes hosted Kentucky at home in an anticipated matchup between the Big Ten and SEC foes. The then-ranked No. 38 Ohio State squad controlled the match, taking all six singles matches and two of three doubles matches to take down the Wildcats, ranked 34th at the time.

Then-senior Kirsten Flower clinched the match with a 6-0, 6-3 victory against UK’s Megan Broderick on court one to seal the victory for Ohio State.

The win was the first for the Buckeyes against UK since March 13, 1999.

MOVIN’ ON UP
Ohio State moved up one spot to No. 31 in the Feb. 8 edition of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls after battling top-ranked opponents in losses to Tennessee and SMU on the road in Knoxville, Tenn.

TOP OF THE CHARTS
Sophomore Fidan Manashirova leads the team in singles wins (13) this season, followed by classmate Kara Cecil with 11 victories. Manashirova has won 10 consecutive matches, beginning with a victory 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.

In doubles, the tandems of Noelle Malley and Kara Cecil and Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs share the team lead with six wins. Escobedo and Hubbs are 3-1 at No. 1 doubles this season, while Malley and Cecil have yet to drop a match in dual matches.

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.

New singles and doubles rankings will be available Feb. 14.

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.”

OHIO STATE FALLS TO TENNESSEE IN FIRST LOSS OF SEASON
The No. 33 Ohio State women’s tennis team dropped its first match of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend against No. 12 Tennessee, 6-1, on the road in the Goodfriend Tennis Center in Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 30.

“Tennessee is a very tough place to play, without a doubt,” Chuck Merzbacher, Ohio State head coach, said. “We made progress throughout the match and we hope to rebound against a very good SMU team.”

Sophomore Fidan Manashirova provided the lone point for the Buckeyes with a win on court six against Millie Nichols, 7-6 (2), 6-1, to push her winning streak to 10 matches.

In doubles, Tennessee’s Natalie Pluskota and Brynn Boren opened the match with a 8-5 victory against the 64th-ranked duo of Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs on court one. On court two, the 50th-ranked tandem of Kelsey Haviland and Gabby Steele battled the No. 9 twosome of Rosalia Alda and Nichols, but fell short in an 8-6 decision.

The court three match between Ohio State’s Kara Cecil and Noelle Malley and UT’s Jennifer Meredith and Maria Sorbello was suspended after the Volunteers’ second doubles victory. Meredith and Sorbello were leading 7-5 at the time of suspension.

UT’s Kata Szekely was the first off the courts in singles, taking a 6-1, 6-3 decision against Malley on court five. Boren, ranked 20th nationally, downed Haviland, ranked No. 125, in straight sets on court two, 6-0, 6-4.

With the match score at 3-0 in favor of Tennessee, Manashirova put the Buckeyes on the board, but Tennessee’s Alda answered back with the clinching point on court three against Cecil, winning 7-6, 6-2.
Escobedo stretched the No. 1 match against Pluskota into a third set after dropping the first set, but couldn’t hang on to the momentum in a 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 loss.

With the match clinched, play between Steele and Sorbello moved into a super tiebreaker after the Buckeye and Volunteer exchanged set wins. Sorbello climbed to a 7-5 lead before Steele responded with three consecutive points to go ahead 8-7. Those would be the last points for Steele as Sorbello claimed three points of her own to take the super tiebreaker and match, 7-5, 4-6, 10-8.

BUCKEYES DROP 4-3 HEARTBREAKER TO SMU
The 33rd-ranked Ohio State women’s tennis team took No. 27 SMU to the edge, but ultimately fell 4-3 to the Mustangs (4-1) in a four-hour marathon match at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Knoxville, Tenn., Jan. 31.

With the score knotted at 3-3, junior Buckeye Kelsey Haviland, ranked 125th in the nation in singles, battled Edyta Cieplucha for the match win on court two, but came up short in a 7-5 third set, falling 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-5.

The Buckeyes (2-2) took the doubles point for the third time out of four matches this season. Kara Cecil and Noelle Malley dispatched Ashley Turpin and Shahzoda Hatamova on court three, 8-3, before SMU’s twosome of Heather Steinbauer and Edyta Cieplucha responded with an 8-5 victory against the 50th-ranked duo of Kelsey Haviland and Gabby Steele on court two.

Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs, ranked as the No. 64 tandem in the nation, held on in an 8-6 decision against Marta Lesniak and Aleks Malyarchikova to take the first point for the Buckeyes.

Malyarchikova avenged the doubles loss with a straight sets victory against Malley, 6-1, 6-1, to tie the score at one a piece. From there the match would go back and forth between the Mustangs and the Buckeyes.

Hubbs, a co-captain for the Buckeyes, wrapped up her own 6-1, 6-1 win on court six against Turpin. Ohio State now holds a 4-0 at the No. 6 position this season.

On court one, Lesniak, the No. 2 singles player in the nation, downed Escobedo, 6-4, 6-2, to tie the match once again.

The match hung in the balance as the final three matches on court (Nos. 2-4) extended into a third set. Cecil’s match on court three was the first to finish. The sophomore battled to a 7-5 tiebreaker win in the second set, but Steinbauer pulled away in the third to take the match, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

With a win on court four, Steele kept the Buckeyes in contention for the win with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 victory against Hatamova.