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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 35-ranked and seventh-seeded Ohio State women’s tennis team (18-8, 5-5 Big Ten) faces 10th-seed Michigan State (7-16, 1-9 Big Ten) in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday at 4 p.m. ET in Iowa City, Iowa. The match winner will advance to the quarterfinals to take on No. 2 seed Northwestern at 3 p.m. ET Friday.

The tournament can be followed at http://www.hawkeyesports.com/.

IN THE POLLS
The Buckeyes fell three spots to No. 35 in the most recent polls, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

Earlier this season, the Scarlet and Gray set a program record when they reached No. 17 in the rankings.

Senior Kirsten Flower now comes in at No. 78 in the singles poll.

THE 2010 BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
Ohio State enters the tournament as the seventh seed and will face the 10th-seed Michigan State Spartans Thursday. Second seed Northwestern awaits in the second round for the match winner.

Eighth and ninth seeds Wisconsin and Minnesota, respectively, face off in the first round. The winner goes on to play top-seeded Michigan. No. 6 Purdue and No. 11 Penn State form the final first round bout, with the winner advancing to battle No. 3 Illinois.

The tournament winner earns the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Tournament seeding is as follows:
1 – Michigan
2 – Northwestern
3 – Illinois
4 – Iowa
5 – Indiana
6 – Purdue
7 – Ohio State
8 – Wisconsin
9 – Minnesota
10 – Michigan State
11 – Penn State

THE BUCKEYES IN THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
Last season, the Buckeyes earned a first round bye before defeating Indiana, 4-1, in the quarterfinals. The squad was eliminated by top seed Northwestern in the semifinals, 4-0.

Under current head coach Chuck Merzbacher, the Buckeyes are 7-13 in the Big Ten tournament.

A HISTORY OF THE SERIES
The Buckeyes are 27-13 all-time when facing the Spartans. The team is 13-1 against Michgian State under head coach Chuck Merzbacher’s guidance.

Earlier this season, the Buckeyes bested the Spartans, 6-1, on the road in East Lansing, Mich. The last loss for the Buckeyes against MSU came in 2006.

The last time the Buckeyes and Spartans met in the Big Ten tournament came in 1990, where the Scarlet and Gray pulled out a 5-3 victory.

SCOUTING THE SPARTANS
Michigan State struggled in conference play this season, dropping its first six matches before earning a 6-1 victory over Penn State. The Spartans came close to upsetting No. 26 Iowa, but fell in a narrow 4-3 decision.

Elena Ivanova leads the team in singles wins with 20. Whitney Wilson follows closely with 17. Wilson also leads the team in doubles victories, joining with Amy Barton to take 14 matches this season.

BUCKEYE UPDATE
Gabby Steele
finished with a team-best 25 singles wins this season. The freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio, played in the middle of the lineup, seeing action at the third, fourth and fifth positions. Steele was strong against top opponents this season, earning a 12-5 record when facing players on ranked teams. Steele, who shared the team lead with a 7-3 Big Ten singles ledger, and classmate Fidan Manashirova formed a tough doubles tandem, finishing the regular season with 16 wins.

Kelsey Haviland earned 22 singles wins this season, good for second on the team, avoiding any chances of a sophomore slump. Haviland competed as high as No. 2, but played the majority of her matches at the third and fourth spots. The sophomore from Dayton, Ohio, was 2-2 against ranked opponents this season, knocking off then-No. 115 Amy Sargeant of Florida State and then-No. 104 Lauren Lui of Northwestern. She shared the team lead with a 7-3 mark in Big Ten play this year. Haviland and doubles partner Cami Hubbs earned 16 doubles victories this season playing at the No. 1 position.

Senior Kirsten Flower finished a single win behind Haviland, compiling 21 singles victories this season. Flower played every singles match at the No. 1 spot. Her biggest victories of the season came against then-No. 72 Lindsey Hardenbergh of Virginia and then-No. 66 Petra Januskova of Penn State. She also defeated Oregon’s Julia Metzger, then ranked No. 96, and then-No. 120 Whitney Wolf of LSU. Flower earned three doubles victories this season, all coming with Gabby Steele in the fall.

Fidan Manashirova, who led the team in singles wins the majority of the season, accumulated 19 victories in her rookie campaign. The freshman from Elk Grove, Calif., earned 19 doubles victories as well, with 16 of the wins coming when playing alongside Steele.

Paloma Escobedo finished the regular season with 18 singles victories, playing solely at the No. 2 position. The junior from Houston, Texas, enters the conference tournament playing at a high level with a 7-3 record in her last 10 matches. Escobedo and Christina Keesey formed one of the Big Ten’s best doubles duos, finishing 8-2 in conference play. The tandem also led the team in doubles victories with 18 on the year.

Christina Keesey provided the Buckeyes with versatility this season, earning 16 singles wins while playing at spots 3-6. The senior from Northfield, Minn., ended the regular season tied for fifth in the Ohio State record book in career singles victories with 79. All 18 of Keesey’s doubles victories came when partnered with Escobedo. The duo led the squad with an 8-3 Big Ten doubles mark playing at the No. 2 spot.

Junior Cami Hubbs finished with eight singles wins this season. The Omaha, Neb., native proved strong in dual matches with a 6-2 record. Hubbs earned all 16 of her doubles wins with Haviland as the tandem played at No. 1 all spring.

Freshman Kara Cecil saw limited playing time this season, but made the best of her opportunities. The Floridian finished with four wins and was 3-0 in dual matches. Cecil teamed with Manashirova in the fall to earn three doubles victories.

WHITEWASHES
Ohio State posted nine shutouts this season to set the program record for whitewashes in a season. The ninth shutout surpassed the eight victories the 1978-79 and 2006-07 Buckeyes squads posted in their campaigns.

ANOTHER RECORD IN REACH
Ohio State has 18 wins this season, one shy of the program-record 19 the squad posted in 2002 and ’08.

IN THE RECORD BOOKS
Senior Christina Keesey has moved into a tie for fifth place in the Buckeye record book for singles wins with 79. Her 80 doubles wins are tied for ninth in Ohio State history.

Gabby Steele has 25 singles wins this season, one back of 11th place in Ohio State history for a single season. She ranks fifth in the record book for freshman wins.

Steele is tied for seventh in single-season doubles wins for a freshman with 20, while classmate Fidan Manashirova has 19 to rank 11th (tied).

HOME AND AWAY
Ohio State was 8-3 at home and 9-4 on the road this season, with a 1-1 ledger in neutral-site matches.

UP NEXT
If the Buckeyes do not win the Big Ten tournament and receive the automatic bid, they will seek an at-large bid into the 2010 NCAA tournament. Opening round action will take place at campus sites, while the Top 16 teams will advance to the NCAA championship in Athens, Ga., on the campus of the University of Georgia.

Ohio State has earned an at-large bid into the national tournament the last two seasons.

LAST TIME OUT-
BUCKEYES BLANK BADGERS
The No. 32 Ohio State women’s tennis team (18-7, 5-4 Big Ten) shut out Wisconsin (7-15, 2-7 Big Ten) 7-0 Friday night at home in the Ohio State University Varsity Tennis Center. The Buckeyes opened the match with two doubles wins and posted straight-set victories on each singles court to secure the team’s ninth shutout of the season, setting the program record for whitewashes in a season.

“It was a good Friday night crowd,” Chuck Merzbacher, Ohio State head coach, said. We needed that match to place us in the highest seed we can get for the Big Ten tournament. It was an overall focused effort at every position. That focused effort will be needed for Northwestern Sunday.”
Ohio State will close the regular season when it hosts Northwestern at noon Sunday inside the Ohio State Varsity Indoor Tennis Center.

The Buckeyes took the doubles point after the freshman duo of Fidan Manashirova and Gabby Steele rallied from behind twice to take its match against Jessica Seyferth and Kathleen Saltarelli, 8-7, on court three.

Kelsey Haviland and Cami Hubbs earned their 16th victory of the season after defeating Katya Mirnova and Angela Chupa, 8-3, on court one. Paloma Escobedo and Christina Keesey dropped their match on court two to Alaina Trgovich and Hannah Berner, 8-4, snapping their six match win streak.

Escobedo finished first for the Buckeyes in singles, handily defeating Mirnova, 6-1, 6-0, at the No. 2 spot. Hubbs, playing at No. 6, took her match against Saltarelli in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2.

Haviland clinched the match for the Buckeyes after downing Berner, 6-1, 6-3, on court three, recording Ohio State’s fourth team point. The sophomore from Dayton, Ohio, has now won three-straight.

Keesey won her 78th career singles match, moving into a tie with Linda Magid (1995-96) for No. 6 in the Ohio State record books, after defeating Seyferth on court five, 6-2, 6-2. Steele moved the Scarlet and Gray one point closer to a shutout after taking her match against Chupa, 6-3, 6-2.

Senior Kirsten Flower, ranked 65th in the nation, closed the door on Trgovich in straight sets, 7-6 (5), 6-2, to give the Buckeyes the shutout.

The ninth shutout of the season surpasses the eight whitewashes the 1978-79 and 2006-07 Buckeyes squads posted in their campaigns.

The win put this year’s team in the record books, tying a single-season school record for shutouts at eight. Barbara Mueller’s 1978-79 team set the record but was tied during the 2006-07 season under the direction of current head coach Chuck Merzbacher.

NO. 32 BUCKEYES FALL SHORT TO NO. 6 NORTHWESTERN
The No. 32 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-8, 5-5 Big Ten) fell to the No. 6 Northwestern Wildcats (18-6,9-1 Big Ten), 5-2, in front of a season-high crowd of227 in the final home match this season. The Buckeyes celebrated Senior Day and the duo of Christina Keesey and Kirsten Flower were honored after the match. The Wildcats took advantage of the doubles point and four of the singles matches to put the Buckeyes away, with Keesey and sophomore Kelsey Haviland winning for Ohio State.

“I think we’re playing well with the Big Ten tournament coming up this week,” Chuck Merzbacher, Ohio State head coach, said. “The team is hitting on all cylinders.”

Northwestern swept Ohio State in all three doubles matches to earn the team point. The Wildcats’ top duo of Lauren Lui and Linda Abu Mushrefova downed Kelsey Haviland and Cami Hubbs, 8-4, at No. 1. Maria Mosolova and Elena Chernyakova followed suit on court two, besting Ohio State’s Paloma Escobedo and Keesey, 8-2. On court three, NU’s Samantha Murray and Kate Turvy defeated Gabby Steele and Fidan Manashirova, 8-4.

Northwestern stormed to a 3-0 lead after taking the first two singles matches off the court. Escobedo fell to Murray, who is ranked 39th in the nation in singles, on court two, 6-1, 6-2. Murray’s teammate, Abu Mushrefova, finished soon afterward, winning in straight sets over Hubbs, 6-2, 6-2, at No. 6.

Keesey put the Buckeyes back into the match after downing Stacey Lee on court five, 7-6 (6), 6-2. The senior from Northfield, Minn., moved into a tie for fifth place in career singles victories with the win.
The Wildcats slammed the door on a comeback, however, when Turvy topped Steele in straight sets on court four, 6-1, 6-4, to clinch the team victory.

In a battle on court one, Flower, ranked 65th in the nation, squared off against No. 12 Mosolova. After dropping the first set, Flower outlasted multiple match points for Mosolova and forced a tiebreaker in the second set, resulting in a 10-8 win for the Buckeye. Mosolova responded in the third set super-tiebreaker by winning five-straight points to take the match, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 10-5.

Haviland and Lui faced off on court three. Lui, ranked 104th nationally, took the first set, but Haviland answered with 6-3 wins in the final two sets to knock off her ranked opponent and earn her fourth-straight victory, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.