The duo has been a part of nearly 100 wins in the Scarlet and Gray, participated in three NCAA Tournaments (including quarterfinal and semifinal runs) and won two Big Ten regular season and two Big Ten Tournament titles.
Sanford, Sneed and the Buckeyes begin postseason play this week in the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis. Ohio State, the No. 4 seed, opens tourney action vs. Purdue Friday.
Sanford, from nearby Westerville, Ohio, described some of her favorite moments as a Buckeye as `magical’ and said her favorite memory was winning the Big Ten Tournament in 2016.
“It was the first [tournament title] in program history,” Sanford said. “We had a great season up to that point. We beat Michigan in the final, so that was an added bonus that made it extremely memorable for all of us.”
Sneed, from Prairie Village, Kansas, agreed on the most memorable match.
“That has to be mine too. Winning the final and rushing to Francesca’s [Di Lorenzo] court after winning against such a big rival was a lot of fun.”
These Buckeyes have come a long way since stepping onto the Scarlet and Gray courts as freshmen. One of the biggest transitions was the difference between juniors and collegiate tennis.
“It is very different coming into collegiate tennis from being in juniors because your tennis is based solely on yourself,” Sanford said. “So getting to be a part of a bigger picture is exciting. It makes it more worth it through the training and work you put in.”
Sneed encourages young athletes who have the option to play college tennis to do so.
“You have to go in with open eyes, because even though a lot of it is tennis, a lot of it is also the friends you make and the connections you gain. It’s not only the sport of tennis that is beneficial, but the other things outside of tennis that can benefit you as well.”
Sanford was more succinct in her view on choosing college tennis.
“Go for it. It’s honestly the best four years of your life.”
Those four years have already held many successes for the senior tandem. Another of Sanford’s favorite moments was clinching the NCAA quarterfinal match vs. Texas Tech to send the program to the national semifinals for the first time last season. Sneed reminisced more on the conference titles, while also patting her classmate on the back for her Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors.
Both team captains, they stand as outstanding leaders, especially on a team filled with new players in the lineup this season. The younger Buckeyes look up to the seniors and listen to their words of wisdom.
Sneed and Sanford looked back on the legacy they want to leave with the program.
“They have a lot to learn from freshman year because you make plenty of mistakes that year,” Sneed said. “I hope they think Anna and I handled those mistakes well and taught them the right way we do tennis at Ohio State and the right way to be a Buckeye. It’s the little things in the gym, or those eight hour weeks where captains are leading practices – taking everything seriously.”
“It’s the little things like the team culture, enjoying bus rides, playing music in the locker room beforehand, dancing and goofing around to loosen up and get rid of nerves,” Sanford added. “In addition to the important things, it’s the little things that will make the difference 10 years from now that we will look back on and remember.”
The senior duo has also learned a great deal from their coach, Melissa Schaub, that they will carry with them after their Buckeye playing careers are through.
“Hard work really does pay off, all of the time in the gym and all the hours on the court,” Sanford said of lessons learned from Coach Schaub. “The past couple of years we have gotten the results from putting in that hard work.”
“I think being a `blue collar’ team has been something she has emphasized in the past few years to make sure we outwork all of our competitors,” Sneed said of Coach Schaub. “I think that’s the biggest lesson she has taught us all.”
Glancing at the future, both Sanford and Sneed have decided to take a fifth year at Ohio State. Sanford wants to explore the business side of the medical field and learn the ropes of pharmaceutical sales. Sneed wants to eventually head back home to Kansas City to attend law school.
They both see tennis always playing a role in their lives, mentioning the idea of coaching along with continuing to play.
The duo marked their final home matches over the weekend. Both know Ohio State has made its mark on them and they will leave their mark on it.
“I have made so many friends and so many memories,” Sneed said. “I have made lifelong friends I will take for the rest of my life. The memories have meant so much to me. The mark I wish to leave on Ohio State is having been a good leader so that in years to come, I have helped this year’s freshmen succeed later on in their own careers.”
“Coming in as a freshman you don’t really understand how great it is to be a Buckeye, or the real meaning behind `The People, The Tradition, The Excellence’ Ohio States stands with,” Sanford said. “Getting to be a part of that tradition and meeting so many new people was pretty magical. I would like for our leadership this year to carry on, with the traditions we have established and the team culture we have established continuing on.”