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SETTING THE SCENE
COLUMBUS, Ohio As part of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, the No. 1 Ohio State men’s tennis team is one of 15 schools to host the qualifying rounds of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships Jan. 31 – Feb. 1 at The Ohio State University Varsity Tennis Center. This event showcases the top 60 men’s varsity teams in the country squaring off at 15 campus sites.

The 15 men’s teams to win both of their matches this weekend will be invited to play in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, Feb. 13-16, in Chicago, Ill.

INTRODUCING THE TEAMS
No. 1 Ohio State is one of four teams in the Top 65 of the latest ITA NCAA Division I rankings competing this weekend for one invitation to the field of 16 at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships at the Midtown Tennis Club in Chicago (hosted by Illinois).

The three teams traveling to Columbus this weekend include No. 28 Virginia Tech, No. 42 New Mexico and No. 65 Stetson.

In the first match, Ohio State will face Stetson Saturday, while Virginia Tech battles against New Mexico. Two matches are guaranteed and the winners/losers will play each other in the second matches Sunday.

THE TOURNAMENT HISTORY
The ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship is the ITA’s longest running national championship, dating back to 1973. Stanford has won the most titles at this event with 12 and is followed by UCLA with seven. From 1990-2002 Stanford, and UCLA claimed every ITA National Team Indoor title; however, four different programs – Illinois, Baylor, Georgia and Virginia – have been crowned champions in the last six years. A team that has reached the final has gone on to win the NCAA crown in May 15 times since 1973.

The Buckeyes hold a 6-7 all-time record in the tournament winning all six victories the past two seasons.

A LOOK BACK
The Buckeyes are the 2007 and ’08 ITA National Team Indoors Championship runner-ups. As the No. 3 seed in the championships last year, Ohio State advanced to its second-consecutive final by beating defending national champion and second-seeded Georgia, 4-1, at the Nordstrom Tennis Center Feb. 17 in Seattle, Wash. The Scarlet and Gray lost to No. 1 seed Virginia, 4-1, in the finals. In 2007, the Buckeyes fell to Georgia, 4-0, in the finals in Chicago, Ill.

A STRONG START
Ohio State (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) began its dual season last week winning its first three matches. The Buckeyes defeated both Butler and Xavier, 7-0, Jan. 21 in a dual doubleheader at The Ohio State University Varsity Tennis Center. The Buckeyes improved to 20-0 on the opening day of the season under 10th-year head coach Ty Tucker. The two home wins also extend the Ohio State home winning streak to 75-consecutive matches dating back to the 2003 season.

The three-time defending Big Ten champions got their first road test of 2008-09 last Sunday, , against No. 34 Washington in Seattle, Wash. The Buckeyes defeated the Huskies 6-1 and evened the all-time series against Washington at 2-2.

In the last three dual matches, Ohio State is 17-1 in singles and 9-0 in doubles as a team.

BUCKEYES TOP RANKING IN NATION
The Scarlet and Gray opened the 2009 season ranked No. 1. The top ranking is the first in Ohio State program history and the team becomes the first program to earn a preseason ranking of No. 1 since the 2006 football squad.

Under head coach Ty Tucker, who is in his 10th season, the Buckeyes have now been ranked in the Top 20 in the ITA rankings for five-consecutive years. For the past two seasons, Ohio State has earned a preseason ranking of No. 3 and finished third behind Georgia and Virginia both in 2007 and 08. Prior to that, the Buckeyes ranked 5th in 2006 and 24th in 2005.

BUCKEYE INDIVIDUALS RANKED HIGH
Ohio State is the only team to have three student-athletes ranked in the singles Top 10 of the ITA NCAA Division I rankings announced Jan. 6.

In singles, the Buckeyes sit among the best collegiate talent in the nation as Bryan Koniecko ranks No. 1, while teammates Steven Moneke and Justin Kronauge rank Nos. 3 and 6, respectively. Koniecko becomes the first Buckeye in the top singles seed since Jeremy Wurtzman in 2004. This ranking comes after Koniecko took the crown at both the 2008 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships and the Wilson/ITA Midwest Regional with teammate Kronauge receiving runner-up awards in both.

Balazs Novak ranks No. 38 and Shuhei Uzawa sits at No. 77.

In doubles, Moneke and Novak rank No. 11 as the top Buckeye doubles squad. Koniecko and Kronauge pair at No. 31, while Novak and Mike O’Connell rank No. 41.

SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Ohio State is a combined 7-3 against teams competing this weekend. The Buckeyes are 6-1 all-time against Virginia Tech and 1-2 all-time vs. New Mexico.

Ohio State will face Stetson for the first time in program history. 

The Buckeyes last met Virginia Tech during the 2005-06 campaign in Columbus, winning 6-1 at the Jesse Owens West Recreation Center. The Scarlet and Gray have won five-consecutive meetings against the Hokies. Under head coach Ty Tucker, the Buckeyes are 5-0 against Virginia Tech. 

Ohio State last met New Mexico during the 1997-98 season, losing 3-4 to the Lobos. The Buckeyes last and only win against New Mexico came during the 1988-89 campaign winning 7-2. Since starting as head coach during the 1999-00 season, Tucker has never faced New Mexico.

STETSON HATTERS
From the Atlantic Sun Conference, the No. 65 Stetson men’s tennis team begins its dual season Tuesday, Jan. 27 against Bethune-Cookman. Stetson is returning four players from the 2008 team that went 21-5 overall and 9-1 in conference play. The Hatters reached as high as No. 56 in the ITA poll before losing to No. 37 ETSU in the A-Sun tournament finals. Sophomores Gokay Celik and Chris Swanteson were each Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team selections, while senior Filip Kricka went 19-5 in singles and 21-4 in doubles in 2008. The Hatters bring in six freshmen and junior Mark Metsan, a transfer from Hawai’I Pacific, for the 2008-09 campaign.

Besides Ohio State, the Hatters will face four other teams ranked in the ITA Preseason Top 75 this season including No. 59 South Alabama, No. 74 UAB, No. 61 Clemson and No. 39 ETSU.

VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES
The No. 28 Virginia Tech men’s tennis team will begin team play in Columbus against New Mexico during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. The No. 28 national ranking in the ITA preseason poll is the highest preseason ranking in the program’s history. Senior Nicolas Delgado de Robles and freshman Luka Somen received a No. 20 national doubles ranking. Junior Pedro Graber ranks at No. 101 in the national singles and is 10th in the Mideast Region.

Virginia Tech finished the 2007-08 season with a 16-9 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second-consecutive year. The Hokies return six players from last year’s squad.

NEW MEXICO LOBOS
The No. 42 New Mexico men’s tennis team comes into the ITA Team Indoor qualifier with a 2-0 record. The Lobos defeated No. 75 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 4-2, Jan. 25 and took down Indiana, 4-3, Jan. 23.

UNM is led by seniors Johnny Parkes, Graeme Kassautzki and Miles Bugby. Kassautzki is ranked No. 83 in the nation and won three-consecutive matches at the ITA All-American last fall. Parkes ranks second in the ITA Mountain Region, while Parkes and Bugby own the No. 2 doubles ranking in the region.

The Lobos finished the 2007-08 campaign with a 20-8 overall record (most victories in 20 years) and held a 5-1 record in conference play. The Lobos lost to TCU in the Mountain West Conference Championship 4-3, but shared the 2008 MWC Championship with TCU and Utah.

HOME SWEET HOME
Ohio State extended its home winning streak to 75 after winning its opening matches against Butler and Xavier. No other Big Ten team in any sport has won as many games consecutively at home than the Buckeyes. The Scarlet and Gray won its 16 home competitions last season, marking the fifth-consecutive year in which the Buckeyes won all their home matches. The home winning streak dates back to the 2003 season, starting with a 5-2 victory over Purdue April 6.

KRONAUGE/ALLARE TOP WINS COLUMN
No. 6 Justin Kronauge comes into this weekend’s event with a 14-3 overall singles record, which is the most wins on the team. In his first two seasons with Ohio State, Kronauge has posted an overall career singles record of 70-16. Since head coach Ty Tucker started in 1999-00, no other Buckeye has won more wins their first two seasons than Kronauge.

In doubles, sophomore Matt Allare holds an overall doubles record of 9-2 and has the most doubles wins on the team. Paired with Kronauge this season, the duo holds a 7-1 record including a perfect 3-0 mark at the No. 1 doubles spot. Allare went 17-9 as a freshman in doubles and will look to be the first Buckeye this year to reach double-digit wins this weekend.

STREAKY KONIECKO
Since taking the crown at the 2008 Wilson/ITA Midwest Regional and the 2008 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in singles last fall, top-ranked Bryan Koniecko holds one of the longest winning streaks in the nation. Koniecko has won 11-consecutive singles matches dating back to Oct. 23.

Koniecko holds an overall singles record of 12-1and is 6-1 against nationally ranked opponents including four-consecutive wins in the 2008 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor singles championships against opponents in the Top 32 of the ITA preseason polls. On his quest to the indoor singles crown, Koniecko defeated No. 1 Oleksandr Nedovyesor of Oklahoma State 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the tournament.

DOUBLE DIGITS FOR FIVE
Five members of the Ohio State men’s tennis team have reached double digits in singles wins this season. In overall singles, No. 6 Justin Kronauge is 14-3, No. 1 Bryan Koniecko is 12-1, No. 3 Steven Moneke is 12-3, No. 77 Shuhei Uzawa is 11-4 and No. 38 Balazs Novak is 10-3. The five Buckeyes are a combined 59-14 overall and 8-0 in home singles matches this season. 

UP NEXT
Ohio State returns to dual play next week with two tough road matches against No. 20 North Carolina Feb. 6 and No. 26 Wake Forest Feb. 8. The Buckeyes come back to Columbus for a Top 10 battle against No. 9 Mississippi Feb. 11 at The Ohio State University Varsity Tennis Center.