COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 21 Ohio State women’s tennis team (11-3, 0-0 Big Ten) travels to State College, Pa., to take on Penn State (2-7, 0-1 Big Ten) at 3 p.m. EST Friday in the Buckeyes’ first Big Ten Conference match of the season.
A HISTORY OF THE SERIES
Ohio State owns an all-time record of 24-12 against Penn State, including a 13-3 mark under head coach Chuck Merzbacher. Last season the Buckeyes hosted the Nittany Lions in Columbus when the Scarlet and Gray took a 6-1 victory.
SCOUTING THE NITTANY LIONS
Penn State has struggled since winning its first two matches of the season, dropping seven straight, including the past four to ranked opponents. The Buckeyes are the highest ranked team the Nittany Lions have faced this season. The team opened conference action Feb. 5, dropping a 5-2 road decision at Purdue.
Freshman Petra Januskova, ranked No. 21 in singles, leads Penn State at the top position. The Canadian is 2-1 against ranked opponents this season. Januskova shares the team lead for dual singles victories (4) with sophomore Michaela Stracar. Stracar is one half of the leading duo in doubles, combining with Sarah Henderson to earn four wins this season.
BUCKEYES IN THE POLLS
Ohio State fell four spots from a program-high No. 17 last week to No. 21 in the latest Campbell’s/Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls. Last week the Buckeyes fell to now third-ranked Notre Dame 7-0 on the road, but defeated Oregon and California University of Pennsylvania 4-1 and 7-0, respectively, at home.
Senior Kirsten Flower moved up to No. 49 in the national singles rankings after finishing 2-1 last week at the top position. Flower has won three of her last five matches against ranked opponents, including last week’s victory over Oregon’s Julia Metzger.
HIT THE ROAD
The match at Penn State is the first of four-consecutive road games for the Buckeyes. The team heads to Purdue next week for another Big Ten match before hitting the road for two matches over spring break. The team will meet Long Beach State March 23 and then head to Texas for a matchup with Rice March 27. The squad will be back in action in Columbus in a month when they host Minnesota and Iowa April 2 and 4, respectively.
After just four matches in March, the Buckeyes will play eight dual matches (four at home, four on the road) in April leading up to the Big Ten tournament that begins April 29 in Iowa City.
ALL ABOUT THE WINS
Freshmen Fidan Manashirova and Gabby Steele continue to share the team lead in singles victories this season, with their total now at 16 each. Flower and Kelsey Haviland joined Steele at the top of the spring singles win total (10) following last weekend’s doubleheader.
Steele and Manashirova, who have only dropped a single match this season as a doubles team, also combine to share the team-lead in spring doubles victories (8) with Paloma Escobedo and Christina Keesey.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
The team has performed exceptionally well this season against unranked teams and lower ranked squads. The Scarlet and Gray own an 8-0 record against lower ranked teams, with a combined score of 48-5.
Five of the eight wins have been shutouts for the Buckeyes.
THE DOUBLE TAKE
The Buckeyes are 6-0 in doubleheaders this year, all shutout victories with the exception of a 4-1 win against Oregon. The squad blanked Xavier and Cleveland State in the season-opening doubleheader at home before traveling to Columbia, Mo., to take 6-0 and 7-0 victories over Memphis and Missouri, respectively. Last weekend the Buckeyes defeated California University (Pa.) 7-0 at home following the Scarlet and Gray’s victory over Oregon.
In those six contests, the Buckeyes dropped only two matches and one team point.
BUCKEYES DOWN THE DUCKS
The No. 17 Ohio State women’s tennis team (10-3) won the first of its doubleheader matches Sunday over Oregon (5-7) 4-1 at home in the OSU Varsity Tennis Center in front of the biggest crowd this season.
“That was a war,” Chuck Merzbacher, Ohio State head coach, said. “I was very impressed with Oregon and the way they competed. This was their third match in three days and they still fought hard.”
The Buckeyes took the early lead following the doubles matches. On court two, Paloma Escobedo and Christina Keesey played a dominating match against Oregon’s Julia Metzger and Sabine Fuchs, winning 8-1. The freshman duo of Gabby Steele and Fidan Manashirova clinched the doubles point after downing Patricia Skowronski and Emannuelle Cor, 8-3. The win was number 10 for the Buckeye twosome, joining Cami Hubbs and Kelsey Haviland in double-digit victories. Play on the first court was suspended after the Buckeyes clinched the doubles point.
Haviland was the first off the court in singles for Ohio State, quickly defeating Skowronski in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, at the fourth position. Down 2-0, Oregon narrowed the margin to 2-1 after Pavlina Smatova won in straight sets over Keesey, 6-2, 6-4. On court six, Manashirova quickly won the first set against Sabine Fuchs, 6-3. The second set was a back-and-forth battle between the two players, with the score winding up 6-all and heading to a tiebreaker. Manashirova came out on top, winning 7-4 in the tiebreaker to move the Buckeyes one point closer to victory.
No. 67 Kirsten Flower provided the clinching point for the Scarlet and Gray on court one. The senior from Upper Arlington, Ohio, engaged in an emotional in-state battle against 96th-ranked Metzger, hailing from Perrysburg, Ohio. With a large crowd cheering for both sides, Flower quickly took the first set 6-2 before forcing the second set into a tiebreaker after being down 0-4. The tiebreaker was much of the same for the two netters, tied at 6 before Flower earned the victory with a final score of 8-6.
The matches on courts two and five were left unfinished after Flower’s clinching match. On court two, Escobedo faced off against Trudie du Toit and on court five Steele was competing with Oregon’s Cor. Both matches were in the third set before suspension.
PITCHING THE SHUTOUT
The 17th-ranked Ohio State women’s tennis team (11-3) completed its Sunday doubleheader with a 7-0 shutout win over the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans (6-2). The Buckeyes are now 6-0 in doubleheaders this season.
“California University is going to have a good season,” Ohio State head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “I was impressed and I definitely think they’re going to make a run at the Division II national championship. It was nice to get some players back on the court and for the team to continue to improve.”
The Scarlet and Gray opened the contest by taking all three doubles matches for the first time since Jan. 23 at Missouri. The top duo of Kelsey Haviland and Cami Hubbs kicked things off with an 8-0 victory over Cal. University’s Anastassiya Zherdeva and Galina Vishnikina at the No. 1 spot. Freshmen Fidan Manashirova and Gabby Steele took their match against Jutta Bornefeld and Jade Pondicas, 8-2, on the third court. The win moves Steele and Manashirova into a tie with Haviland and Hubbs at the top of the team’s doubles wins column at 11.
The Buckeye tandem of Paloma Escobedo and Christina Keesey locked up the doubles sweep for the Buckeyes, defeating the Vulcan’s Alina Stanila and Nina Kowalski, 8-2, at No. 2.
Escobedo finished first for the Buckeyes, downing California University’s Anastassiya Zherdeva in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1, on court two. Moments later on court six, freshman Kara Cecil put the Buckeyes up 3-0 after taking the match against Vishnikina in straight sets, 6-0 6-0.
Senior Kirsten Flower defeated Kowalski at the top position to clinch the match for the Buckeyes, 6-0, 6-1. Haviland, playing at the third position, proved victorious over last year’s Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West’s Freshman of the Year, winning in straight sets over Cal. University’s Stanila, 6-2, 6-1. With the win, Haviland tied her singles wins total from last season (14).
Keesey battled with Bornefeld of the Vulcans in the first set, with the match tied at 4-4 before the Buckeye pulled away to take the set 6-4. The senior then pushed the Buckeyes within one point of the team’s sixth shutout of the season, downing Bornefeld, 6-4, 6-2.
Hubbs ensured the shutout for the Scarlet and Gray, defeating Pondicas on court five. Hubbs was down 0-3 in the first set, but stormed back to tie the set at 6-6 and win the tiebreaker, 7-4. Hubbs quickly won the second set to take the match, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
With the win, the Buckeyes have bookended the month of February with shutout victories. The team opened the month with a 7-0 win at home over Kentucky.