CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Ohio State broke the stalemate at the top of the Big Tenn standings with a big 4-2 victory on Sunday at No. 14 Illinois. The Buckeyes are now 24-2 on the season and 9-0 in the conference. Illinois falls for the first time in conference play and is now 8-1 and 14-7 overall.
This match was the showdown of the year in the Big Ten as the conference title has gone to either Ohio State or Illinois every year since 1997.
John McNally and Hunter Tubert got the first doubles win of the day with an easy 6-1 victory on court three over Noe Khlif and Zeke Clark. The Buckeye duo remains perfect on the season and is now 18-0 overall.
Alex Kobelt and Kyle Seelig provided the clinching point and put the Buckeyes ahead 1-0 with their 6-4 win on court two vs. Gui Gomes and Vuk Budic. Martin Joyce and JJ Wolf were even at 5-5 in their match at one when the Buckeyes secured the point.
The top of the lineup led the Buckeyes in singles on Sunday. After Seelig routed Keenan Mayo 6-1, 6-1 on court four to put the Buckeyes in front 2-0, Illinois evened the score at two with wins on courts six and three. The Illini had the momentum as they also won the opening set on court five and were in close sets at the top.
Wolf and No. 6 Aleks Kovacevic squared-off in not only a top-10 dual but what may have been a match to decide the Big Ten Player of the Year. The first set was on serve the whole way into a tiebreak which Wolf came out on top 7-3. In the second, Kovacevic got the first break and was serving for the set at 5-4. Wolf then won that game and held to take a 6-5 lead and turn the momentum of the match. The two players would again go into a tiebreak and Wolf claimed a third point with a 7-4 win.
McNally took on No. 48 Alex Brown and found himself down a break in the first. He rallied for a big win at 4-5 and then held the rest of the way into a first-set breaker. Like Wolf, he won that break 7-5 and then gave the Buckeyes the match victory with another tiebreaking win in the second set. This was McNally’s eighth win over a ranked opponent and improves him to 21-5 on the season.
Kobelt and Siphosothando Montsi was the only unfinished match on the day. Montsi won the first set 6-4 and then right before Wolf and McNally entered their second-set breakers, Kobelt won his own breaker to extend the match. That was another big momentum swing for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State returns home next weekend for a pair of matches with Purdue and Indiana. The match with Purdue is set for 6 p.m. on Friday evening and then the Buckeyes will celebrate their two seniors, Martin Joyce and Hunter Tubert following the Noon match with Indiana on Easter Sunday.
#2 Ohio State 4, #14 Illinois 2
1. #1 JJ Wolf (OSU) def. #6 Aleks Kovacevic (UI) 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4)
2. #28 John McNally (OSU) def. #48 Alex Brown (UI) 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4)
3. Zeke Clark (UI) def. Martin Joyce (OSU) 6-2, 6-2
4. #54 Kyle Seelig (OSU) def. Keenan Mayo (UI) 6-1, 6-1
5. Siphosothando Montsi (UI) vs. Alex Kobelt (OSU) 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 0-1, unfinished
6. Vuk Budic (UI) def. James Trotter (OSU) 6-2, 6-2
1. Alex Brown/Aleks Kovacevic (UI) vs. #30 Martin Joyce/JJ Wolf (OSU) 5-5, unfinished
2. #20 Alex Kobelt/Kyle Seelig (OSU) def. Gui Gomes/Vuk Budic (UI) 6-4
3. John McNally/Hunter Tubert (OSU) def. Noe Khlif/Zeke Clark (UI) 6-1
Ohio State 24-2; National ranking #2
Illinois 14-7; National ranking #14
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (4,6,3,1,2)