Junior assistant captain Kelsey Haviland is blogging throughout the weekend at the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala. Follow along as the Buckeyes take on some of the nation’s toughest teams.

Day 1

Today I learned an important lesson. When you are scheduled to meet somewhere (in my case, the OSU Varsity Tennis Center) at 5:30 a.m., it is wise to set more than one alarm. It was an early start to the day as my roommate and doubles partner, Gabby Steele, barged into my bedroom at 5:10 a.m. saying “Kelsey wake up, time to go.” Fortunately I had all my stuff packed and ready by the door. My car was full with four tennis bags, luggage and backpacks as we raced to the facility to meet the bus. Arriving just on time at 5:30 a.m., we loaded our bags and ate some bagels the staff brought us for breakfast. The Columbus airport was surprisingly smooth checking our bags and going through security. Everyone managed to bring their IDs, tennis shoes and racquets. So part one of our day was a success.

We finally arrived in Alabama around 10 a.m. It was early in the morning, and not to brag to anyone reading this blog in Ohio, but the temperature was already in the 70s. Our travel sweats came off and we were ready to head to the practice courts in our shorts and t-shirts. While the coaches left us to get the rental cars, the girls (myself included) tried to tan for 10 minutes outside the airport. Most of the girls got color and my face predictably turned red. On our way to the Lagoon Park Tennis Center, we stopped for a quick sandwich where we were greeted with numerous “Roll Tide” comments. It was something we were just going to have to get used to in the south. We finally arrived at the tennis center and got a solid hit in. We knew tomorrow was going to be tough playing a solid Auburn team who is used to playing outdoors.

After our practice, we were on our way to meet up with our host families. That is one of the many luxuries of the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic. All of the teams are put up in housing with host families in the area. This would be my first time experiencing it. Fidan and I met our host family, a couple who have been hosting players in the tournament for over 30 years, and I’ll just say they know how to take care of guests. We spent time visiting before we got ready for the evening banquet and our team manager picked us up around 6 p.m. to take us to the nearby country club. Everyone was greeted with numerous gifts and live music. The event was probably one of the nicest receptions I have ever had the pleasure of attending. After dinner and a few cookies later, we watched the tournament committee and board members address the young college players in the room. It was a warm greeting and made everyone appreciate we were at the second oldest collegiate tennis tournament in history.

An early night is in store for us as we take on Auburn tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. Until then as always… GO BUCKS!

Day 2

Fidan and I woke up to a text this morning from our head coach. Apparently rain crept on the radar in the middle of the night and dampened the courts. The tournament has 30 blowers on site, so they did not expect much of a delay. Fidan and I had an early breakfast at 6:45 a.m. and we made our way over to the courts by 7:15 a.m. As they continued to dry the courts, that left us time to re-grip our tennis racquets, wrap injuries and take care of things before play. We took the court against Auburn around 9:30 a.m., not too long of a delay from our original 8:30 a.m. start time. The competition heated up on the court immediately during the doubles point. Kara Cecil and Noelle Malley fought hard but fell at the number three spot. Senior captains Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs continued their winning ways at the number one spot, tying the score at one-all. The point came down to me and Gabby Steele as we clinched the doubles point, 8-5. There was no time to relax, however, we knew Auburn was a tough SEC team with “kind of” a home court advantage. We took the court for singles and continued our momentum. Paloma won in spectacular fashion, winning 6-0, 6-0. Cami Hubbs was next to put a point on the board for the Buckeyes. The game-winning match was a race between myself, Gabby and Fidan. Gabby was able to pull away in her second set to win 6-1 and clinch the match. Play was suspended for the other matches, and the Buckeyes moved on to the semifinals of the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic!

After a short celebration of the win, most of us made our way to the hospitality tent that provided lunch and unlimited Blue Bell ice cream. Two lunches later, we made sure to scout the match of our opponents, which was determined to be the top-seeded University of Virginia. Each of us then returned to our separate host families’ homes for the rest of the day to relax and recover from the match. We now await Virginia tomorrow which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Live scoring is available at Until then… GO BUCKS!


Day 3

Today we had the opportunity to sleep in a little later than usual since our match against the University of Virginia was scheduled for 11 a.m. Fidan and I woke up around 8 a.m. this morning and headed to the kitchen for some fruit and cereal. After a quick breakfast we headed to the practice courts to warm up before the much anticipated semifinals against number one seed UVA. Forty-five minutes later, the team sat on the sidelines watching and waiting for DePaul University and Auburn to battle out a consolation match before we could take the courts.

The match was heated from the very first point on all three doubles courts. Virginia is known for their impeccable doubles, but we knew their style of play well and each court had a thought out gameplan. All matches were tight early on, until UVA separated themselves on courts two and three, ultimately leading them to the doubles point win. In the team huddle between doubles and singles, Coach Merzbacher reminded us that we have been in this exact same position against Virginia, and we’ve come back to win it before. All the girls took the courts for singles with fire and heat. At one point, every court in the first set was in favor for the Buckeyes. Fidan Manashirova, Cami Hubbs and Gabby Steele all pulled away with first set wins. Virginia fought back hard with tenacity and experience. Down 1-3 in the match score, Gabby, Cami and Kara all entered third sets. Kara Jo’s opponent separated herself in the third set, scoring the winning point for Virginia.

It was a tough loss to a strong and experienced team. All the girls held their heads high knowing there is still another chance to upset a Top 20 team. Tomorrow we take on the Oklahoma Sooners for 3rd/4th place in the Blue Gray Tennis Classic at 10:30 a.m. Until tomorrow… GO BUCKS!