May 4, 1999
COLUMBUS, Ohio –
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Play an opponent close but come up just short. It has been a familiar refrain for the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-18, 0-10 Big Ten) in the 1999 dual match season, and it was a refrain sung yet again in what proved to be the final match of the year for OSU, a 4-2 loss to Michigan State in the first round of the Big Ten Tennis Championships, April 29.
The Buckeyes’ stay in the Big Ten tournament did not last as long as the coaches and players had hoped. Ohio State met up with Michigan State in the first round, and despite putting up a gritty effort, they lost to the Spartans 4-2.
The Buckeyes doubles lineup was shuffled in an attempt to reverse the trend of losing the doubles point and falling behind 1-0 in every match. Michigan State was not fazed by the new lineup, however, and came out on fire, cruising in the doubles and taking a crucial 1-0 lead into singles.
Ben Basil, playing in what proved to be his final match as a Buckeye, stopped the Spartans’ momentum immediately by posting a 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over Francisco Trinidad to tie the score at 1-1. The win was Basil’s team-high sixth Big Ten victory of the season.
MSU jumped ahead 2-1 after a victory at No. 3 singles, but Ohio State was able to hang in the match and tie the score at 2-2 when Andrew Carlson defeated Ken Kigongo 7-5, 6-2. The sophomore from Gambrills, N.J., ended his season with 14 wins just one year after being forced to redshirt because of a stress fracture in his vertebrae.
Three matches remained on court, and the action was getting tense. Chris Porter at No. 1 singles won the first set and was on serve in the second. Meanwhile, Kevin Hawke and Derek DeFalco were down breaks in the third set in their matches. Hawke ended up being the first Buckeye to be defeated, making the score 3-2, MSU.
Porter continued to battle his opponent late in the second set while DeFalco desperately tried to get back into his match with Michigan State’s Ivica Primorac. Despite a valiant effort by DeFalco, he could not overcome Primorac’s solid play, and Michigan State won the match and moved on to play another day.
END TO A CAREER
A byproduct of OSUs loss to Michigan State is that Ben Basil’s career as a Buckeye tennis player is over. He finished the season 15-15 and led the team in dual match singles (13) and doubles wins (9).
Basil exemplifies the qualities of the collegiate student-athlete as both a tennis player and academian. He was named Academic all-Big Ten in 1997 and ’98 and is a good bet to receive that honor again this year. Also included in his scholastic awards is being named OSU Scholar-Athlete 1996-98. The senior from Upper Arlington, Ohio, has a cumulative 3.32 grade point average in molecular genetics.
Playing No. 5 singles the majority of the season, Basil finished second on the team in overall wins with 15. He ends his Buckeye career with 65 singles wins, which ties him for 13th on OSUs all-time singles win list. His 55 doubles wins places him 12th on the all-time doubles win list. His best season came in 1996-97, when he won 19 singles matches playing in the middle of the Buckeye lineup. Basil also posted 20 doubles victories that season.
Chris Porter is ranked No. 93 in the latest ITA Spring IV Rankings, released May 4.
The sophomore from Canton, Ohio, has had his share of bad luck in recent matches. He had match points to beat No. 35 Mark Loughrin of Wisconsin April 17 but ended up being narrowly defeated 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (9). Porter has lost four of his last seven matches in three sets. His match with Michigan State’s Trey Eubanks at the Big Ten Championships was abandoned due to MSU clinching the win before Porter finished his match. He had won the first set 7-6 (5) and was down 5-6 when the match was called.
WHO’S COMING BACK?
The only member of this year’s team that will not return next year is senior Ben Basil. Among those that are returning are sophomore Chris Porter, who played the entire season at No. 1 singles and has been ranked as high as No. 70 in the nation. He won 20 matches this year.
Another key returner is Andrew Carlson, who was a solid performer at No. 1 doubles and No. 2 singles. The sophomore finished the season tied for second on the team in Big Ten wins with five.
Derek DeFalco, Kevin Hawke and Bob Wellstein, all underclassmen who played in the singles lineup all year, will also return to make next year’s Buckeye squad more experienced and match tough.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS REVIEW
Illinois won the Big Ten Tennis Championship by defeating Purdue 4-1 in the finals. It marks the third year in a row the Fighting Illini have won the conference crown. UI cruised through the championship, losing only one match en route to its 32nd win in a row over Big Ten opponents.
The big upset of the weekend came in the quarterfinals when host Michigan, the tournament’s second seed, fell at the hands of seventh-seeded Northwestern, 4-3. The win probably put the Wildcats over the top in their hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid and ended the Big Ten career of Wolverine head coach Brian Eisner, who is retiring from his post after 30 years at the helm.
Purdue’s road to the finals went through Michigan State in the quarterfinals (4-0) and Northwestern in the semifinals (4-2). The Boilermakers, who were seeking their first Big Ten title in school history, just didn’t have enough in the finals for the fourth-ranked Fighting Illini, who enter the NCAA Championships with hopes of becoming only the second Big Ten team ever to win a National Championship. The 1957 Michigan squad is currently the only Big Ten team to have won a men’s tennis national title.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Results, notes and information about the Big Ten Tennis Championships, which took place April 29-May 2, can be found on the official web site of the Ohio State Department of Athletics, www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com. Click on “other sports” in the left hand column then choose men’s tennis on the sportsfinder to locate OSUs Big Ten Championships web page.
THE NATIONAL SCENE
Wednesday, May 5, at 5 p.m. EDT, the waiting game will come to an end for men’s college tennis teams around the country. It is at that time the pairings and sites will be announced for the 1999 NCAA Tennis Championships. The tournament begins Friday, May 14, with 16 four-team regionals at selected campus sites. The winner of those 16 regionals advance to the Sweet 16, hosted by the University of Georgia, May 22-25. The singles and doubles championship will also take place there from May 26-30.
The Big Ten team to watch in the NCAA Championships is Illinois, currently ranked fourth in the nation. They are 25-3 after winning the Big Ten Championships for the third consecutive year. The Illini’s best win of the season came against then-No. 1 Stanford Feb. 20 in the National Team Indoors in Seattle, Wash. UI beat the Cardinal 4-3, snapping their 45-match winning streak.
Illinois reached the round of 16 last year’s before being upset by Auburn, 4-1.