COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 43 Ohio State women’s tennis team will travel to Montgomery, Ala., this weekend to compete in the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic. The fourth-seeded Buckeyes (5-2, 1-0 Big Ten) will face the Auburn Tigers in the first round of the tournament Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET.
2011 BLUE GRAY NATIONAL TENNIS CLASSIC
Joining the Buckeyes at the tournament are local squads No. 36 Alabama and No. 64 Auburn, as well as No. 48 DePaul, No. 19 Notre Dame, No. 22 Oklahoma, No. 51 Utah and No. 9 Virginia.
Depending on the outcome of the match against Auburn Friday morning, Ohio State will face the winner/loser of the match between DePaul and top-seeded Virginia.
This is the first year with women’s competition at the event, which began as an individual tournament for men in 1949. In 1983, the Blue Gray Tennis Classic moved to a team format and has since welcomed storied programs from around the country to Montgomery for the event.
For more information on the Blue Gray Tennis Classic, visit the tournament’s website at www.bluegraytennis.com.
The next home match for Ohio State is March 4 against Louisville. The Buckeyes and the Cardinals face off at 6 p.m. in the OSU Varsity Tennis Center.
OHIO STATE IN THE BOOKS
13-3: 2010 regular season record vs. non-conference opponents
4-2: 2011 regular season record vs. non-conference opponents
5-2: 2011 season record
0-1: 2011 neutral-court record
1-2: 2011 record vs. ranked opponents
0-3: all-time record vs. Alabama
2-4: all-time record vs. Auburn
7-0: all-time record vs. DePaul
3-17: all-time record vs. Notre Dame
1-0: all-time record vs. Oklahoma
1-1: all-time record vs. Utah
3-3: all-time record vs. Virginia
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Auburn stands at 2-4 after a rough 0-4 start, with each loss coming against ranked opponents. The Tigers rebounded for a pair of victories in a home doubleheader against Alabama A&M and Memphis Feb. 19.
Sophomore Plamena Kurteva leads the Tigers with 15 singles victories, including a 3-3 mark in dual matches. The Bulgarian was named SEC Player of the Week Feb. 23 for her efforts against Alabama A&M and Memphis. Her singles victory against Kathleen Hawkins of Memphis clinched the 4-3 win for Auburn.
The Buckeyes and the Tigers last met in the opening round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, when Auburn advanced with a 4-3 victory. The last win in the series for Ohio State came at home in a 5-2 decision Feb. 19, 2005. Auburn holds the all-time series lead with a 4-2 advantage.
A LOOK AT THE CAVALIERS
The Cavaliers (8-1) are in the middle of a record-breaking season after soaring to No. 9 in the ITA rankings following a 4-3 upset of then-No. 3 Baylor at the ITA National Indoor Championship.
Virginia is led at the top of the singles lineup by a trio of ranked players with 41st-ranked Emily Fraser, 54th-ranked Erin Vierra and 67th-ranked Lindsey Hardenbergh.
Virginia also boasts a triple-threat of doubles teams. The tandem of Fraser and Hana Tomlijanovic ranks 10th in the country while teammates Maria Fuccillo and Rashmi Teltumbde form the 51st-ranked duo. Hardenbergh and Vierra round out the group at No. 67.
The Buckeyes and Cavaliers faced off last year in Charlottesville, Va. Ohio State took the doubles point and four singles decisions to earn the 5-2 upset. The decision tied the series record between the teams at three wins apiece.
PREVIEWING THE BLUE DEVILS
DePaul (7-4) is coming off a split of matches against Big Ten opponents. The Blue Devils fell to Indiana, 7-0, on the road before returning home to down Iowa, 5-2.
Kelsey Lawson and Christiana Raymond are tied for the team lead in singles victories (18), while Gia McKnight has joined with both Selma Salkovic and Katarina Milinkovic to earn seven wins in each duo. McKnight and Milinkovic are ranked 55th in the nation.
DePaul and Ohio State met in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, with the Buckeyes advancing on the strength of a 4-1 opening-round victory. The Buckeyes are 7-0 all-time against the Blue Devils.
TOP OF THE CHARTS
Sophomore Fidan Manashirova leads Ohio State in singles wins (16) this season, followed by classmate Kara Cecil with 14 victories.
In doubles, the tandems of Noelle Malley and Kara Cecil and Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs share the team lead with eight wins. Escobedo and Hubbs are 5-2 at No. 1 doubles this season.
IN THE POLLS
The Buckeyes enter the tournament ranked 43rd in the nation according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls. The team began the season ranked 33rd before climbing as high as 30th.
Escobedo is ranked sixth in singles in the Midwest region, while junior Kelsey Haviland was polled at No. 15 regionally. The doubles duo of Haviland and sophomore Gabby Steele is ranked fourth in the region. The tandem of Escobedo and Hubbs ranks 10th regionally.
The team began last season ranked 38th in the nation before reaching a program-record No. 17 ranking in February.
LUCKY NO. 13
Fidan Manashirova has won 13 consecutive matches, beginning with a victory against Boston University’s Petra Santini at the Big Green Invite Nov. 5, 2010, against opponents from 12 schools, including teammate Kelsey Becker. Ten of the 13 victories have been in straight sets.
With 16 victories this season, the Elk Grove, Calif., native is just three wins shy of matching her mark from last year. Manashirova opened her 19-win freshman campaign on a seven-match win streak.
PUT IT IN THE BOOKS
Seniors Cami Hubbs and Paloma Escobedo are both primed to finish the season near the top of the all-time singles and doubles victories lists. Currently, Hubbs is a win away from passing Kristin Peterson (’84-’87) for No. 14 with 65 singles wins. With 63 singles victories, Escobedo is two wins shy of tying Ann Beaudoin (’79-’81) and Kerry Singer (’94-’97) at No. 15.
In doubles, Hubbs can claim 12th all-time as her own with a 77th victory. Escobedo is just one win shy of Hubbs’ mark with 75 career doubles wins.
AIMING FOR PERFECTION
Fidan Manashirova and Cami Hubbs have earned a combined 12-0 record in singles in dual matches this season. The two have helped the Buckeyes hold a flawless 7-0 mark at the No. 6 singles spot in 2011.
All three Buckeye sophomores have posted an .800 win percentage or better in singles the last 10 matches. Fidan Manashirova has led the way with a perfect 10-for-10, while classmates Gabby Steele and Kara Cecil have both gone 8-2 during the stretch.
Cecil has flown up the singles lineup in 2011 after playing in just three dual matches last season. This year, the Florida native has been firing on all cylinders, posting a 5-2 dual-match record at the No. 3 position. One spot behind Cecil at No. 4, Steele has had her own success early in the season, compiling a 6-1 singles ledger in dual play.
ON A ROLL
Ohio State has won its last three matches by a combined score of 17-4, including a 7-0 whitewash of then-No. 65 William & Mary.
Midseason streaks are nothing new to the Scarlet and Gray. In 2007, the Buckeyes reeled off a 9-1 record from Feb. 25 to April 1, followed by a 12-1 run from Feb. 16 to March 30 in 2008. Two seasons ago, Ohio State went 8-1 from Feb. 21 to March 29. The team was 6-1 between Feb. 28 and April 2 last year.
The Buckeyes not only hold a 4-0 home record this season, but the team has also notched three shutouts while playing inside the OSU Varsity Tennis Center. Ohio State opened the season with consecutive 7-0 victories against Cincinnati and Cleveland State Jan. 23 before whitewashing William & Mary at home Feb. 13. The lone non-shutout was a 6-1 victory against conference foe Penn State Feb. 11.
LAST TIME OUT
The 31st-ranked Ohio State women’s tennis team (5-2, 1-0 Big Ten) downed No. 65 William & Mary (4-3), 7-0, at home Feb. 13 in the OSU Varsity Tennis Center. The win moved the Buckeyes’ home record to 4-0 in 2011 and put the team on a three-match win streak.
“That was our best match of the season,” Ohio State head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “We’re getting better each match and our improvement showed today. We beat a tough team and we were clutch in both doubles and singles.”
The competition was heated all match long between the Buckeyes and the Tribe. Paloma Escobedo and Cami Hubbs, the 64th-ranked doubles duo, put Ohio State in position to take the doubles point after an 8-4 victory on court one against Anik Cepeda and Hope Johnson.
The Tribe avoided a sweep with a win of their own on court two as Katie Kargl and Jeltje Loomans downed the 50th-ranked tandem of Kelsey Haviland and Gabby Steele, 8-6.
With the point on the line and the crowd’s focus solely on court three, the two squads did not disappoint. Ohio State’s Kara Cecil and Noelle Malley roared to a 3-0 lead before William & Mary’s Lauren Sabacinski and Marlen Mesgarzadeh dug themselves out of the hole to tie the match at three apiece. The teams exchanged games to ultimately land at 8-8. In the tiebreaker, Malley and Cecil put their foot on the gas and rocketed to a 7-3 win, providing the Buckeyes with the first team point of the match.
Hubbs gave the Buckeyes their second point of the day with a 6-3, 6-0 win on court six against Marivick Mamiit. Ohio State now holds a 7-0 record at the No. 6 position in 2011.
Steele won her 12th match of the season after sweeping Cepeda in straight sets on court four, 6-3, 6-1, to put the Buckeyes up 3-0. Just moments after Steele’s win, Cecil wrapped up her own straight sets win on court three against Jeltje Loomans, 6-3, 7-6(3), after coming back from a 5-2 deficit in the second set to clinch the match for the Buckeyes.
After a couple hours of emotional, competitive play on court one, Escobedo pulled away in the second set to take a 7-5, 6-2 decision against Nina Vulovich.
“It was a well-played match for both teams today,” co-captain Escobedo said. “Both squads are very competitive and showed a lot of spirit and passion on the court.”
“It was a good match,” Haviland, a junior assistant captain, added to Escobedo’s statement. “It was a lot closer than the score reflected.”
On court five, Fidan Manashirova won the last two sets of her match against Kargl after dropping the first to claim a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory. The win pushes her streak to 13-consecutive victories and ends Kargl’s five-match win streak.
With both full squads cheering on the match on court two, Haviland and Johnson battled to the very end in a three-set match. Despite dropping the first set, 6-0, Haviland showed perseverance and took the final two sets to complete the whitewash of the Tribe with a 0-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.