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Oct. 19, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio– The Ohio State women’s tennis team makes the trip to East Lansing, Mich., this weekend for the annual ITA Midwest Regional Championships. The event will be held at the MSU Outdoor Tennis Courts on the Michigan State campus. Play begins Thursday with singles qualifiers, doubles main draw beings Friday and the singles main draw starts Saturday. The event runs through Tuesday.

ITA Regional Setup
The ITA Midwest Regional Championships are part of 17 ITA Regional Championships for NCAA Division I men and women taking place at campuses throughout the country. The singles finalists and doubles champion from each event will earn spots in the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, Nov., 3-6, at the Racquet Club of Columbus.

In East Lansing, the singles qualifier includes 64 players who will battle for eight spots in the 64-player main draw. The initial round of qualifying will begin Thursday with the main draw beginning Saturday.

The doubles main draw will be made up of 64 teams with no qualifiers. Play for the doubles teams begins Thursday.

Those Competing
The Buckeyes have three players set to compete in the singles main draw in Julie Blackmore, Caitlin O’Keefe and Sonia Ruzimovsky. Also traveling for the Buckeyes and participating in the qualifiers Thursday will be Angela DiPastina, Ciara Finucane, Emily Howard, Kristin Messmer and Julie Voss.

Playing in the Doubles
The Buckeyes will have four duos competing in the doubles main draw. The first duo is Julie Blackmore and Caitlin O’Keefe, who are 3-1 on the season when paired together. Ciara Finucane and Kristin Messmer are paired up and also are 3-1 so far this season. Angela DiPastina and Sonia Ruzimovsky, and Julie Voss and Emily Howard make up the last two pairs. ITA Midwest Regional Last Year
In the 64-player main draw of the event, Sonia Ruzimovsky, Caitlin O’Keefe and Kristin Messmer all lost their opening-round matches. In the 64-team doubles draw, the duo of Caitlin O’Keefe and Lindsay Adams won its first two matches and made it to the round of 16 before losing a close match, 9-7.

The Highlight of the Fall
To many of the players, the ITA Midwest Regional Championships are what you work for in the fall. It is a chance for the players to show the rest of the region what they are made of. Sophomore Caitlin O’Keefe is looking forward to her second consecutive appearance in the event.

“The team is looking forward to it. This is a climax to the entire fall season,” O’Keefe said. “I think we will do very well this year.”

Appearing for her first time is freshman Julie Blackmore.

“I am looking forward to my first regional match. I was excited when I found out I qualified for the main draw as a freshman,” Blackmore said. “I hope to compete and do well.”

Making her third-straight trip to the ITA Midwest Regional is junior Sonia Ruzimovsky. This year, though, Ruzimovsky is qualified into the main draw and looks to capitalize on her opportunity.

“After having to qualify the last two years, I am excited about being in the main draw,” Ruzimovsky said. “The good thing about the regional is you get a look at your competition for the rest of the season. I am also looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Coach Merzbacher on the Fall
Buckeye head coach Chuck Merzbacher is in his 10th season at Ohio State and is as excited about the regional this year as he has ever been.

“It is the highlight of the fall. It is a chance to let the whole region know you are a team to be reckoned with,” Merzbacher said.

“It is an individual tournament, but you want everyone to play and do well as a team.”

Last Weekend
Ohio State was in action last weekend at the Wildcat Invitational in Evanston, Ill. In singles, Angela DiPastina won her first three matches of the White Singles bracket on her way to taking second place in the event. On the doubles side, the tandem of Kristin Messmer and Ciara Finucane also took second place by winning its first three matches in the Lavender Doubles draw.

So Far This Season
After two tournaments this season, freshman Angela DiPastina and senior Emily Howard lead the team with five victories each. The Buckeyes also have four players with four wins on the season. In doubles, Ohio State has two teams that boast a mark of 3-1 on the season. Caitlin O’Keefe and Julie Blackmore as well as Kristin Messmer and Ciara Finucane are the two duos leading the way for the Buckeyes.

The Freshmen Are Stepping Up
All five Buckeye freshmen have their first career victory under their belt. They wasted no time getting their first win, as they all in the Kentucky Fall Invitational, the first tournament of the year,. Julie Blackmore won her first match of her collegiate career by defeating Olga Batsula of Middle Tennessee State in the first round. It was a come from behind victory in a three set match ending 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. Also getting her first career victory in her first match was Sara Kinning, a redshirt freshman. Kinning beat Jessica Holland of Marshall, 7-5, 6-3. Olga Koutseridi defeated Terin Roof of Eastern Kentucky, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1. Julie Voss won her first two career matches over Jemma Euers and Jessica Keever by scores of 3-6, 6-0, 6-0, and 6-4, 6-2, respectively. The fifth newcomer to get her first Buckeye victory was Angela DiPastina by winning over Ina Durcakova of Eastern Kentucky by a score of 6-4, 2-6, 1-0.

Returnees Are Off to Fast Start
After losing four seniors, the Buckeyes have only five players returning from the squad a year ago. The five returning are senior Emily Howard, juniors Kristin Messmer, Sonia Ruzimovsky and Anna Volberg and sophomore Caitlin O’Keefe. Three of the five letterwinners are enjoying success early in the fall season. Howard has started off the season with a 5-3 record, winning four of her first five matches. Messmer won her first two matches of the season and now has a singles record of 4-4. O’Keefe has dropped her last three matches, but still has a record of 3-5 on the season. Ruzimovsky and Volberg have yet to play any singles matches. Ruzimovsky is 1-2 in doubles.

Youngsters Enjoy Early Doubles Success
Early in the season the Buckeyes have found themselves in a great situation in doubles. Leading the way in individual doubles is freshman Julie Blackmore, who boasts an impressive 6-2 record. She is 3-1 when playing with Caitlin O’Keefe and is 3-1 when teaming up with Ciara Finucane. Also with a 6-2 mark in doubles is Georgia Southern University transfer junior Finucane. Finucane is 3-1 when paired with Kristin Messmer and 3-1 when playing alongside Blackmore.

ITA Comes To Columbus
The Buckeyes will be hosting the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor Championships. The ITA National Indoor tournament is a prestigious men’s and women’s event that will include matches in both singles and doubles. The event will take place November 3-6 at the Racquet Club of Columbus.

The ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships are the second of three national tournaments for singles and doubles during the collegiate tennis season. Host Ohio State has had champions each of the last two years: Jenny Wurtzman in 2003 in singles and Scott Green and Ross Wilson last year in doubles.

“We’re delighted Ohio State will be hosting this special event these next two years,” ITA Executive Director David A Benjamin said. “I’ve seen and heard nothing but great things about the university and the Racquet Club of Columbus and know this will be a great site for the event. Tennis fans in the Columbus area are in for a real treat.” State Women’s Tennis

A Look at the Schedule
The spring season for Ohio State begins January 21 and the schedule for the Buckeyes will be a difficult one. They face eight teams that went to the NCAA tournament last season, five of which hail from the Big Ten.

Ohio State will play 15 home matches, including seven of the first 10 games, which will help the Buckeyes as they start the new season. They also finish the schedule with six of the last eight matches in Columbus.

“The toughest part of the season schedule is going to be the Big Ten,” Merzbacher said.

Doing Well in the Classroom
The Buckeyes have two returning players that were named ITA Scholar-Athletes. Junior Kristin Messmer and sophomore Caitlin O’Keefe were awarded the honor. The team also was presented with the ITA All-Academic Team Award.

A Look at the Season
In the face of a tough schedule, the Ohio State women’s tennis team battled to a 7-19 record. After a non-conference slate that saw Ohio State face seven teams who finished the season ranked No. 24 or higher in the final 2005 ITA standings, the Buckeyes entered Big Ten play with an equally difficult task. Ten of the conference’s 11 squads were part of the ITA’s rankings at some point during the season, including Ohio State, who topped out at No. 49.

Ohio State ended conference play 2-8 record, the first time in seven seasons that the Buckeyes finished below .500 in conference play. Both of the Buckeyes’ conference wins came on the road. Ohio State came-from-behind, winning at the Nos. 2,3, 5 and 6 positions to snag a 4-3 win at Minnesota March 27. The Buckeyes closed out the away part of the schedule with a 4-3 victory at Michigan State April 17 in which they got victories at the Top 3 singles spots as well as at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles.

The Buckeyes ended the season at the 2005 Big Ten Championship following a 4-1 loss to Penn State in the first round April 28 at the MSU Tennis Center in East Lansing, Mich. Ohio State won the doubles point, but lost four consecutive singles matches to the No. 8-seed Nittany Lions.

Most Valuable Player sophomore Sonia Ruzimovsky led the team in singles with a 22-14 record. She is the first Buckeye sophomore to win the award since Kristy Dascoli in 1999. Additionally, Ruzimovsky was the first Buckeye to reach 20 wins in a season since 2003, when Sadhaf Pervez and Jackie Leskovar each accomplished the feat, and the first Buckeye sophomore to win at least 20 matches in a season since Erica Fisk and Lindsay Williams won 22 and 21 matches, respectively, in 2002.

Freshman Caitlin O’Keefe won the Coach’s Award after leading the team in conference singles wins with five. O’Keefe is the first Buckeye freshman to lead the team in conference singles wins since Sadhaf Pervez in 2000.

O’Keefe, a three-time Michigan state singles champion in high school, had an impressive trip back to her home state April 16-17, winning the fourth and fifth Big Ten matches of her career, at Michigan and Michigan State, respectively. She also picked up a doubles victory against the Spartans.

Overall, her 15 singles wins were second most on the team, as were her 10 dual victories.

Additionally, she tallied 14 doubles wins this season while playing with seven different partners. She is the first Buckeye freshman to achieve more than 10 doubles victories since Erica Fisk won 15 matches in 2001.

Senior Lindsey Adams was named the team’s Most Improved Player after moving up to the No. 1 position in the singles lineup, where she won three matches before suffering a season-ending injury. Adams also played No. 1 doubles, often with either O’Keefe or Ruzimovsky, where she won four matches.

Coach Chuck Merzbacher scored a pair of milestones in 2005. The Buckeyes’ 7-0 victory Jan. 22 over Cleveland State was his 250th career win. His squad’s 4-3 win April 17 over Michigan State gave him 123 as the leader of the Buckeyes. That ties him with his predecessor, LeeAnn Massucci, for the most in school history. Just finishing his ninth season in Columbus, Merzbacher is 123-119. Massucci accumulated a record of 123-151 in her 11 seasons at Ohio State.