COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 38 Ohio State women’s tennis team (5-1) returns home Wednesday to face No. 34 Kentucky (1-3) after an impressive showing in the ITA National Indoors Qualifier last weekend. The Buckeyes begin play against the Wildcats at 1 p.m. EST in the Varsity Tennis Center (880 West Henderson Road). Admission to all Ohio State home matches is free.
A Look at the Wildcats
Kentucky enters the contest at 1-3 after a rough start with losses to No. 10 Georgia Tech, No. 64 Minnesota and North Carolina. The Wildcats’ win came last weekend against No. 24 Alabama in the first round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championship Qualifier.
The team is led by junior Megan Broderick at the top of the lineup. Sophomore Caroline Lilley, who clinched the fourth point in a 4-3 match against the Buckeyes in the regular season last year, led the team with 25 wins a season ago.
Kentucky advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 13th consecutive season last year. After a 4-0 win over the Buckeyes, the Wildcats fell to Northwestern 4-1. UK spent all but one week in the Top 25 of the ITA/Campbell’s rankings.
The Buckeyes faced the Wildcats twice last season, falling both times. The first match was held in Lexington, Ky., on the UK home court and finished with a close 4-3 score. The second match would be the last of the season for the Buckeyes, taking place in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Evanston, Ill.
Earlier this season, the Buckeyes participated in the Kentucky Invitational in Lexington in the fall.
Ohio State is 4-13 all-time against Kentucky.
Off to a Hot Start
The Buckeyes are off to a 5-1 start this season, the best since the 2006-07 season. Before falling to Florida State last weekend, Ohio State’s 5-0 record matched the best since the 2002-03 squad’s 5-0 start to begin its dual season.
The Buckeyes have been perfect at the number four spot in the lineup to begin the season. Freshman Fidan Manashirova won the first two matches on the fourth court in the season-opening doubleheader over opponents from Xavier and Cleveland State. Since then, sophomore Kelsey Haviland has protected the spot with a flawless 4-0 ledger.
Shrugging Off the Sophomore Slump
Haviland has performed at a high level in the first weeks of dual match season, evident by her unblemished 6-0 record following her upset of Florida State’s No. 115 Amy Sargeant in the National Team Indoor Championship Qualifier last weekend. The sophomore from Dayton, Ohio, who has yet to drop a set since starting dual match season, is only two wins away from matching her dual season win total from last year. She now has 10 wins overall, only four off last year’s total mark.
Top of the Charts
Freshmen Fidan Manashirova and Gabby Steele pushed their tie for team-leading wins to 11 this past weekend. Haviland is close on their heels with 10. Manashirova owns the team’s best winning percentage (.846) with an 11-2 record.
A Look Back At the ITA Kickoff Weekend
The Buckeyes return to Columbus after posting a 1-1 record at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship Qualifier in Fresno, Calif. Ohio State, as the fourth seed, defeated No. 15-ranked and top-seeded Fresno State on its home court, 6-1, in the first round of the tournament. The win was the biggest victory for the Buckeyes since a 4-3 win over No. 16 Wichita State on March 19, 2007. The Buckeyes won the doubles point and five singles matches, including straight-set victories at Nos. 4-6 from Kelsey Haviland, Gabby Steele and Fidan Manashirova. At No. 2 and No. 3 Paloma Escobedo and Christina Keesey each won in a super tiebreaker after dropping the second set.
In the championship match, the Buckeyes were downed by No. 25 Florida State, 6-1, as the Seminoles earned a spot in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship. Kelsey Haviland picked up the singles win for the Buckeyes at No. 4 in straight sets.
The Buckeyes will be on the road for two matches this weekend, taking on William & Mary at 4 p.m. Friday in Williamsburg, Va., and Virginia at noon Sunday in Charlottesville. The Buckeyes’ will return home for a match vs. LSU at 2 p.m. Feb. 17 (note the time has changed) and vs. Tennessee at noon Feb. 20.