April 25, 2005

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s tennis teams returns to action this week at the Big Ten championship Thursday in East Lansing, Mich. The Buckeyes (7-18, 2-8 Big Ten) face Penn State (7-11, 2-8 Big Ten) at 10 a.m. The winner of the match between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes faces No. 1 seed Northwestern (21-2, 10-0 Big Ten) Friday.

Big Ten Championship Primer
All 11 conference teams qualify for the Big Ten championship, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA championship.

The Top 5 teams in the tournament receive byes in the first round. Regular season champ Northwestern is seeded No. 1, followed by No. 2 Indiana, No. 3 Iowa, No. 4 Illinois and No. 5 Wisconsin.

Competition begins Thursday with three matches. No. 9-seed Ohio State takes on No. 8-seed Penn State, No. 6 Purdue faces No. 11 Minnesota and No. 7 Michigan faces No. 10 Michigan State.

The semifinals will take place at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday with the championship to follow at noon Sunday.

Scouting Penn State
The Nittany Lions are coached by Buffy Baker.

Baker’s squad is led in singles victories by freshman Jenny Shular. Shular is 16-4 on the season while splitting time between the Nos. 5 and 6 positions.

In doubles, Maaria Husain and Sarah Spence generally fill the No. 1 position.

Ohio State leads the all-time series with the Nittany Lions, 19-15, including a 4-3 loss in State College April 10. Last season, the Buckeyes opened the Big Ten championship by edging Penn State, 4-3, in the first round.

Scouting No. 2 Northwestern
The No. 2-ranked Wildcats (21-2, 10-0 Big Ten) have won six-consecutive Big Ten championships.

Freshman Audra Cohen leads Northwestern with a school single-season record 42 overall singles wins. She is 19-4 this spring and 10-0 in conference play while earning the No. 4 national ranking. Cohen is one of five Wildcats to have won at least seven Big Ten singles matches without a loss.

In doubles, Cohen and Christelle Grier form the nation’s No. 1 singles duo with a record of 20-2 this spring. As a team, Northwestern did not lose a doubles match in Big Ten play.

Northwestern holds a 24-5 advantage in the all-time series with Ohio State, including a 7-0 win last weekend in Columbus. Ohio State was beaten by the Wildcats in Evanston, Ill., in the final of the Big Ten championship last season. Ohio State’s last win over the Wildcats was a 4-3 triumph at home in 2003.

2004 Big Ten Championship
Last year at the Big Ten championship, senior Erica Fisk led the way as the Buckeyes earned three victories in Evanston, Ill., before falling to host No. 11 Northwestern in the final match. For the weekend, Fisk had a 3-1 record in singles and teamed with fellow senior Jackie Leskovar to earn two more victories in doubles as the Buckeyes beat Penn State (4-3), No. 20 Illinois (4-2) and Iowa (4-3). Also excelling for Ohio State over the weekend were then-juniors Emily DeCamilla (Sr., Sacramento, Calif./Maryland) and Lindsay Bryan (Sr., New Orleans, La./Ursuline Academy), who both earned a pair of singles victories. DeCamilla had the clinching victory against the Nittany Lions and Fighting Illini.

Thanks to its run to the championship match, Ohio State finished second overall in the final Big Ten standings after finishing tied for fifth following the regular season.

Last Weekend
Ohio State doubles tandem Caitlin O’Keefe (Fr., Troy, Mich./Troy) and Lindsay Bryan (Sr., New Orleans, La./Ursuline Academy) won at No. 3 doubles in Ohio State’s 7-0 loss to Wisconsin.

The duo downed Nicole Beck and Chelsea Nusslock, 8-3. That performance followed a near-victory Saturday against No. 41-ranked Northwestern duo Alexis Prousis and Kristi Roemer. The Wildcat tandem, undefeated in Big Ten play, held off the Buckeyes, 7-5 in a match tie-breaker, after Bryan and O’Keefe rallied from a 7-6 deficit.

More Merzbacher Milestones
Ohio State coach Chuck Merzbacher, who earlier earned his 250th career win this season, has achieved another milestone, His squad’s 4-3 win April 17 over Michigan State gave him 123 as the leader of the Buckeyes. That ties him with his predecessor, LeeAnn Massucci, for the most in school history. Currently in his ninth season in Columbus, Merzbacher is 123-116. Massucci accumulated a record of 123-151 in her 11 seasons at Ohio State.

Streak With Spartans Continues
Ohio State’s 4-3 win over Michigan State this season was its ninth in a row against the Spartans. All of those wins have come with current coach Chuck Merzbacher at the helm for the Buckeyes.

Ruzimovsky Notches 20 Wins
Sonia Ruzimovsky earned her 20th singles win of the season against Minnesota. The sophomore leads Ohio State with a record of 22-12, including a 12-7 dual match record this spring.

She is the first Buckeye to reach 20 wins in a season since 2003, when Sadhaf Pervez and Jackie Leskovar each accomplished the feat. In addition, Ruzimovsky is the first Buckeye sophomore to win at least 20 matches in a season since Erica Fisk and Lindsay Williams won 22 and 21 matches, respectively, in 2002.

Vincent Tops In Doubles Wins
Meredith Vincent has an overall doubles record of 16-13 this season, which leads Ohio State.

She also is part of the Buckeyes’ leading doubles team, having earned nine wins when paired with fellow-senior Emily DeCamilla.

O’Keefe Leads Conference Play
Ohio State freshman Caitlin O’Keefe lead the Buckeyes in conference play with five singles wins. Overall, her 15 singles wins are second most on the team, as are her 10 dual victories.

Additionally, she has tallied 13 doubles wins this season while playing with seven different partners. She is the first Buckeye freshman to achieve more than 10 doubles victories since Erica Fisk won 15 matches in 2001.

Buckeyes Break Doubles Trend
Ohio State’s win at Minnesota was the first this season in which the Buckeyes won the match without winning the doubles point. The Buckeyes are 1-16 this season when losing the doubles point and 5-2 when winning it. Doubles were not played in Ohio State’s win at Saint Louis because injuries forced the Billikens to compete with only four players.

OSU Owns Buckeye State
Including a trio of 7-0 in-state wins this season over Cleveland State, Youngstown State and Akron, Ohio State is 18-0 against Ohio teams since coach Chuck Merzbacher took over the program prior to the 1996-97 season.

Freshmen Get It Going In Fall
A trio of Ohio State freshmen earned their first collegiate singles wins during the fall season.

Caitlin O’Keefe earned a three-set victory over Emily Vest of Middle Tennessee State, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, for her first win Sept. 17 in Knoxville, Tenn., in the first round of the University of Tennessee/St. Mary’s Fall Classic.

The following weekend at the Kentucky Fall Classic in Lexington, Ky., Silvia Prajescu beat Alex de Guzman of William and Mary, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, for her first victory.

On Oct. 10 at the Eck Classic in South Bend, Ind., it was Nidhi Shah’s (Fr., Mumbai, India/Mithibai College) turn to break into the win column, topping Virginia’s Dora Bechliwanis in an eight-game pro set, 8-6.

Recruiting News
The Buckeyes have signed two student-athletes, Julie Blackmore, a senior at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Julie Voss, a senior from San Angelo, Texas, who attends St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, to NCAA National Letters of Intent to attend Ohio State and join the Buckeyes’ tennis team beginning in Fall 2005.

Blackmore is ranked No. 47 in the nation and No. 11 in Florida in the Girls’ Under-18 USTA rankings. She is a three-time state champion in singles and doubles in Division 2A and reached the Round of 16 in singles and the quarterfinals in doubles at the National Clay Courts meet in Memphis, Tenn., earlier this year. Blackmore, whose father, Bob, is an Ohio State alumnus, also is on the honor roll.

Voss, who plays for St. Stephen’s Tennis Academy, has been ranked in the Top 10 in Texas since age 10 and is ranked No. 9 in the state in the Girls’ Under-18 age group. She has been ranked as high as No. 14 nationally and recently advanced to the round of 16 of the International Tennis Federation tournament in El Paso, Texas. Voss also is a top student and a talented musician.