COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 75th-ranked Ohio State women’s tennis team (8-6, 1-0 Big Ten) faces a slew of familiar opponents this week as the Buckeyes travel to face No. 18 Tennessee (10-4, 3-0 SEC) in Knoxville, Tenn., Wednesday at 4 p.m. before hosting Big Ten foes Iowa and Illinois at home Friday and Sunday, respectively.
Ohio State takes on the Hawkeyes (3-8, 0-0 Big Ten) at 6 p.m. Friday and Illinois (4-6, 1-0 Big Ten) at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Following the Buckeyes’ busy three-match week, the squad will continue Big Ten play with a home match against Northwestern at 2:30 p.m. April 1 before hitting the road for their first conference road trip. Ohio State will travel first to Ann Arbor, Mich., to face the Wolverines April 9 before heading northwest to face Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., April 10.
OHIO STATE IN THE BOOKS
8-6: 2011 season record
1-0: 2011 Big Ten record
6-1: 2011 home record
1-2: 2011 road record
2-6: 2011 record vs. ranked teams
7-6: 2011 regular season record vs. non-conference opponents
13-3: 2010 regular season record vs. non-conference opponents
2-11: all-time vs. Tennessee
15-22: all-time vs. Iowa
12-27: all-time vs. Illinois
PREVIEWING THE VOLUNTEERS
The 18th-ranked Volunteers boast an impressive 6-0 home record this season. The team is led in singles by Natalie Pluskota and Brynn Boren at the top two spots. Pluskota, ranked 42nd nationally, has an 8-5 record in dual matches this season while teammate Boren, ranked 36th, has earned 21 singles wins overall and six in dual matches.
Tennessee has a stable of ranked doubles teams as well. The duo of Rosalia Alda and Millie Nichols is the top-ranked team for UT, coming in at 15th. Boren and Maria Sorbello enter with a 36th ranking, while the tandem of Boren and Plukota is ranked one spot behind at 37th and Nichols and Plukota are polled at 59th nationally. Nichols and Pluskota have handled duties at the top doubles spot through most of dual season this year, earning a 6-3 record.
The Buckeyes and the Volunteers met earlier in the 2011 season in the opening round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Tennessee picked up a 6-1 victory while hosting the event.
A LOOK AT THE HAWKEYES
Iowa enters its match against Ohio State after dropping six of its last seven matches. Sonja Molnar leads the Hawkeyes into battle against the Buckeyes. The 114th-ranked singles player, Molnar is 8-3 while playing at No. 1 this year.
Molar and Jessica Young have picked up six doubles victory in 2011, leading the team through dual matches so far. The duo is 2-1 against ranked opponents as well. Iowa has taken the doubles point in just four of 11 matches this year.
Last year, the Hawkeyes stormed into Columbus to take a 6-1 decision against the Buckeyes. Iowa earned the doubles point and five singles victories for the win. Gabby Steele was the lone singles winner for Ohio State after downing Jessica Young at No. 4, 6-1, 6-1.
A GLANCE AT THE ILLINI
The Illini enter the match against Ohio State playing only one true road match this season, a 4-3 victory against Penn State in University Park, Pa.
Illinois has seen a trio of players occupy the top singles position, with the three combining for just one win during a tough opening stretch of dual-match play against eight nationally-ranked opponents. Amy Allin provided the win at No. 1 for the Illini while Breanne Smutko and Rachael White have collectively posted an 0-9 record at the spot. Smutko, who is ranked 117th nationally, has earned eight singles wins, including three in dual matches. White, ranked 98th, is 10-11 this season and 3-6 this spring.
White and Allison Falkin form the top doubles tandem for Illinois. The duo is 3-5 at No. 1 and leads the team in overall victories with 11.
A year ago, the Illini edged the Buckeyes in Champaign, Ill., 4-3. Ohio State won the doubles point, but Illinois struck back with three straight-set singles victories. The Buckeyes showed their grit, climbing back to tie the score at three apiece before Illinois’ Megan Fudge took down Kirsten Flower in three sets at the top spot to earn the win for the hosting Illini.
TOP OF THE CHARTS
Sophomore Fidan Manashirova leads the Buckeyes in singles wins this season with 19, followed by classmates Gabby Steele and Kara Cecil, who have each racked up 16 victories. The doubles tandem of Cecil and Noelle Malley holds the team lead in doubles victories with 11.
IN THE POLLS
The Ohio State doubles duo of Gabby Steele and Kelsey Haviland reemerged in the national rankings last week. The tandem was polled at 69th March 15.
LEAVING A MARK
With 69 career singles victories, Cami Hubbs is tied for 10th with Leann Grimes (1975-78) in the Ohio State record book. Her 78 career doubles victories put her in 12th place. Paloma Escobedo, Hubbs’ doubles partner this year, has recorded 77 career doubles wins, good for 13th all-time. Escobedo’s 65 singles victories tie her with Ann Beaudoin (1979-81) for 15th.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
The Buckeyes not only hold a 6-1 home record this season, but the team has also notched three shutouts while playing inside the OSU Varsity Tennis Center. OSU has won those six matches by a combined score of 39-3.
Ohio State opened the season with consecutive 7-0 victories against Cincinnati and Cleveland State Jan. 23 before whitewashing William & Mary at home Feb. 13.
The Buckeyes dropped their first home match of the season March 20 to South Florida in a 6-1 decision.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
The Buckeyes have accumulated a 30-7 (.811) record at the No. 4-6 singles positions this season, including a flawless 12-0 ledger at No. 6.
Gabby Steele is 9-1 at No. 4 this season while Fidan Manashirova is 6-1 at No. 5. Cami Hubbs and Tiffany Dittmer have combined to post a 10-0 record at No. 6 the last ten matches. Dittmer scored the first dual-match victory of her collegiate career March 20 against South Florida’s Kate Parker.
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.”
LIKE ALL GOOD THINGS…
Fidan Manashirova pushed her win streak to 14 consecutive matches before dropping a 6-1, 6-0 decision to Oklahoma’s Marie-Pier Huet Feb. 27. Her streak was the longest since at least the 2007-08 season for any Buckeye in singles.
The streak began with a victory against Boston University’s Petra Santini at the Big Green Invite Nov. 5, 2010, and included wins against opponents from 13 schools, including teammate Kelsey Becker. Eleven of the 14 victories came in straight sets.
With 18 singles victories this season, the Elk Grove, Calif., native is just one win shy of matching her mark from last year. Manashirova opened her 19-win freshman campaign on a seven-match win streak.