COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 17 Ohio State women’s tennis team (9-2) goes on the road to face No. 7 Notre Dame (7-1) at the Eck Tennis Pavilion in South Bend, Ind., where the teams will meet at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
BUCKEYES MOVE INTO TOP 25
The Ohio State women’s tennis team ascended further into national prominence last week, entering the Top 25 of the Campbell’s/Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll at No. 21.
The ranking is the highest for Ohio State since holding the No. 21 spot during the 2001 season. The Buckeyes are two spots shy of tying the highest program ranking of 19th nationally, claimed by the same 2000-01 squad.
“The team has really worked hard and competed so well in each and every match they’ve played,” Chuck Merzbacher, Ohio State head coach, said. “I am pleased to see their efforts rewarded with a Top 25 ranking.”
Buckeye senior Kirsten Flower, an Upper Arlington, Ohio, native, is No. 67 in the national singles rankings. The All-Big Ten selection is 8-4 for the Buckeyes at the No. 1 singles position this spring.
A LOOK AT THE IRISH
The Irish are coming off their biggest win in program history after upsetting No. 1 Northwestern at home. Notre Dame has four wins over ranked opponents, including the upset of Northwestern last weekend. Earlier in the season, the Irish downed then-No. 46 DePaul, then-No.16 Michigan and then-No. 31 Illinois. After playing Ohio State, Notre Dame will have faced the top four teams in the Big Ten.
The team is led by No. 23 Kristy Frilling at the top of the lineup. The sophomore is 8-0 in dual-match season while playing at No. 1 and is 8-3 against nationally ranked opponents. Ohio State’s Kirsten Flower faced off against Frilling in the fall season at the ITA Midwest Regional. Frilling took the match in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0.
No. 114 Kali Krisik provides a strong presence for the Irish at the No. 4 spot, posting a 7-1 record in dual-match play. Both Frilling and Krisik are 9-1 in their last 10 matches. The two join to form the eighth-ranked doubles tandem. The tandem is 15-2 this season, including 8-0 at the No. 1 position during dual-match competitions.
Last season the Irish advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to the University of Miami. Notre Dame finished last year at No. 5 in the final Campbell’s/ITA rankings.
A HISTORY OF THE SERIES
Ohio State is 3-16 all-time against Notre Dame. The teams met last year in Columbus, with the Irish taking a 6-1 victory over the Buckeyes.
The schools have met every season since 1997-98. Notre Dame holds a 12-0 record during that span.
STEELE-ING THE SPOTLIGHT
Freshman Gabby Steele has been sensational this season, becoming the first Buckeye to post 10 victories, including five-straight, in dual-match play. Steele also took ownership of the team’s overall wins column (16) after defeating Katie Lee of Tennessee last Saturday.
Steele pairs with classmate Fidan Manashirova in doubles. The two are undefeated in doubles together since beginning dual-match season and are tied with Paloma Escobedo and Christina Keesey for doubles wins at six this spring.
ROUNDING OUT THE ROTATION
The No. 5 and 6 spots have been perfect in the nine wins for the Buckeyes this season. Junior Cami Hubbs and freshman Kara Cecil began the trend at 5 and 6, respectively, in the season opening doubleheader against Xavier and Cleveland State. Since then, Gabby Steele and Fidan Manashirova have carried on the streak. Steele owns an unblemished 7-0 record in the seven other wins while Manashirova is 6-0 with one unfinished match against Memphis.
Ohio State senior and Upper Arlington, Ohio, native Kirsten Flower was named the Big Ten Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week Feb. 9. Flower helped lead the then-33rd-ranked Buckeyes to three team victories over Top 50 opponents, with a home win over then-No. 34 Kentucky and road victories over then-No. 50 William & Mary and then-No. 23 Virginia. She was 3-0 at No. 1 singles for the Buckeyes without dropping a set, and clinched the team victory in two matches.
Against the Wildcats, Flower defeated Megan Broderick, 6-0, 6-3, en route to a 7-0 Buckeye shutout win. In the 5-2 victory over the Tribe, Flower posted a straight sets win against Ragini Acharya, 6-2, 6-2. Flower then downed No. 72 Lindsey Hardenbergh of the Cavaliers in straight sets, 7-6, 6-4, to clinch the 5-2 upset for the Buckeyes.
The weekly laurel was the second for Flower and the first for Ohio State since her first in March 2009.
Flower has been a stalwart at the No. 1 position for the Buckeyes since transferring from Georgia Tech following her sophomore year. Last season she led the team in singles wins (19) on the way to an All-Big Ten selection and NCAA Tournament appearance for the Scarlet and Gray.
BUCKEYES DOWN BAYOU BENGALS
The 28th-ranked Ohio State women’s tennis team improved to 9-1 after downing No. 58 LSU, 5-2, Wednesday afternoon at home in the Ohio State University Varsity Tennis Center. The 9-1 start is the best for the Buckeyes since beginning the 2002 campaign with nine wins in their first 10 matches.
“It was a good win against an SEC opponent,” Chuck Merzbacher, Ohio State head coach, said. “It’s going to help propel us into the match against Tennessee this weekend.”
The Buckeyes took an early 1-0 lead after winning two of the three doubles matches. On court three, freshmen Gabby Steele and Fidan Manashirova jumped to a 4-1 lead and didn’t look back, downing Louisiana State’s Kylie Adamek and Kaitlin Burns 8-2. Soon after court three finished play, Christina Keesey and Paloma Escobedo wrapped up their match against LSU’s Hannah Robinson and Nicole Kantor. The tandems engaged in a back and forth battle with a 4-3 score after seven games. The Buckeye duo found its rhythm after winning the fourth and didn’t drop another game on the way to an 8-3 finish, clinching the doubles point for the Scarlet and Gray.
The top doubles team of Kelsey Haviland and Cami Hubbshad their hands full against Whitney Wolf and Keri Frankenberger on court one. The Buckeyes fell to a 4-1 deficit early in the match before rallying back to cut it to a 7-5 Tiger lead. The LSU duo shut the door on a Scarlet and Gray comeback in the next game, clinching the match 8-5.
Escobedo was out of the gates first for the Buckeyes, quickly downing Frankenberger in straight sets on court two, 6-1, 6-0. Keesey had a difficult outing against Burns on court three. The senior led early in the first set, but Burns came back to win in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, to pull the Tigers back within one on the scoreboard, 2-1.
Courts five and six were next to finish. On six, Manashirova defeated Robinson in straights sets, 6-2, 6-4, to move the Buckeyes one point closer to their ninth win of the season. Steele provided the clinching point for the Scarlet and Gray on court five, winning in straight sets against Ebie Wilson, 6-2, 6-1.
After moving to the super-tiebreaker format, No. 53 Kirsten Flower put away No. 120 Whitney Wolf in a close three set finish, 6-0, 6-7(6), 10-4 on court one. Haviland was unable to finish against Kantor, dropping the last two sets, including a heartbreaking super tiebreaker set, in a 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 loss.
OHIO STATE FALLS SHORT AGAINST TENNESSEE
The No. 21 Ohio State women’s tennis team (9-2) fell to 10th-ranked Tennessee (6-2) 5-2 Saturday afternoon at home in the OSU Varsity Tennis Center. The loss was just the second for the Buckeyes this season, who have faced seven ranked foes this season, including four Top 25 squads.
“We were in a position to win until the very end,” Chuck Merzbacher, Ohio State head coach, said. “I was pleased with the way we fought back throughout the match. Hats off to Tennessee for the way they played.”
In doubles, Ohio State’s top duo of Kelsey Haviland and Cami Hubbs faced off against the nation’s top ranked pair, Caitlin Whoriskey and Maria Sorbello. The Buckeyes started strong, taking the first game, but the Tennessee tandem took control from there, winning eight- consecutive games to win 8-1. On court three, Buckeye freshmen Fidan Manshirova and Gabby Steele went back and forth with Tennessee’s Jennifer Meredith and Katie Lee. The teams were tied at 4 before the Scarlet and Gray pulled away to win 8-5 and improve to 6-0 in the spring season and 9-1 overall.
Needing to win to take the doubles point, Christina Keesey and Paloma Escobedo dropped to a deep deficit on court two to the Volunteer duo of Rosalia Alda and Zsofia Zubor. Down 7-2, the Buckeyes found their rhythm with a little help from the crowd, climbing back to win five-consecutive games and tie the match at 7. The 20th-ranked Tennessee team shut the door on an Ohio State win after taking the next two games to win 9-7.
In singles, the Volunteers defaulted at the No. 6 spot because of injury, tying the match at 1. On court two, No. 37 Sorbello downed Escobedo in straight sets 6-2, 6-0, to put the Lady Vols ahead, 2-1. No. 67-ranked Buckeye senior Kirsten Flower and No. 7 Whoriskey faced off on court one. In the top singles match, Flower battled but ultimately fell in straight sets to Whoriskey, 6-3, 6-1, giving UT a 3-1 lead.
Steele provided the Buckeyes with another point after downing Lee in straight sets on court five, 6-2, 6-3, bringing the overall score to 3-2. Steele has won her last five matches and has a team-best 16 wins this season, with a 10-1 mark in dual-match play. On court three, Keesey pushed Alda to a third set after dropping the first. The junior Volunteer took the third set, 7-5, to clinch the fourth team point and the match for Tennessee. Moving on to super-tiebreaker format, Haviland was defeated by Zubor in three sets 6-4, 4-6, 10-3, after rallying to tie the match at No. 4.