COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sunday afternoon provided the No. 5 Buckeyes with a perfect cap on the regular season. Ohio State swept No. 15 Illinois to claim the Big Ten regular season title outright. The Buckeyes have now been crowned outright Big Ten Champs in 10 of the last 11 seasons.
Ohio State continued its sensational play in the Big Ten, yet again failing to surrender a point against a conference opponent. This marks the first time in history any B1G tennis team has gone through the regular season without dropping a point. The win puts the Buckeyes at 27-2 on the year and 11-0 in the conference and Illinois at 17-9 overall with an 8-3 record in Big Ten play.
Continuing with their doubles lineup from this weekend, the Buckeyes fought hard to earn the point from the start. Ralf Steinbach and Martin Joyce fell early to Aron Hiltzik and Aleks Vukic 6-3 on court 2. The 20th ranked team of Mikael Torpegaard and Herkko Pollanen closed out Jared Hiltzik and Pengxuan Jiang by the same score on court one.
The doubles drama came to life on court three, where Hugo Di Feo and Matt Mendez competed against Brian Page and Julian Childers. After a controversial point helped the Buckeyes go up a break 5-4, Illinois broke back to tie it up 5-5. The Buckeyes eventually won on serve after breaking to win the match 7-5 and put the team up 1-0.
“Everyone knows that anything can happen with the doubles point and we were very fortunate to win a wild one today,” said Director of Tennis Ty Tucker. “I’m just so proud of the guys of the way they came out and battled.”
In singles play, Ohio State battled on each court. The nationally top-ranked Mikael Torpegaard pushed forward the easiest victory of the day for the Buckeyes, winning 6-3, 6-4 against No. 13 Jared Hiltzik to continue his spectacular season and give the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead.
Herkko Pollanen jumped off to an equally hot start, winning his first set 6-1 against Alex Jesse, and then battled to win the second set 7-5 to put Ohio State up 3-0 with the two Buckeye seniors still in hot contention for the match.
On court 2, Chris Diaz worked against No. 3 Aleks Vukic in the first set. Eventually losing the first 7-5, Chris battled in the second to keep the Buckeye sweep-streak alive. It was senior Ralf Steinbach that truly shone in Sunday’s play.
After going down in the first set 6-4, Steinbach started the second down 0-3. He then launched into an unbelievable streak, winning 12 of 14 games to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and give the Buckeyes the 4-0 win.
“It was a tremendous team effort today.” Tucker said. “Torpegaard and Pollanen did their thing, Hugo played well, Chris Diaz battled one of the best players in the country and Martin and Ralf both clawed back after losing the first. This is a great group of student-athletes and Ohio State should be very proud of these guys.”
Ohio State is back in action as the No. 1 seed at B1G tournament on Friday at a time to be announced. The tournament is being played next weekend in Minneapolis, Minn.
#5 Ohio State 4, #15 Illinois 0
1. #1 Mikael Torpegaard (OSU) def. #13 Jared Hiltzik (ILL) 6-3, 6-4
2. #93 Chris Diaz (OSU) vs. #3 Aleks Vukic (ILL) 5-7, 2-5, unfinished
3. #37 Hugo Di Feo (OSU) vs. #65 Aron Hiltzik (ILL) 6-1, 6-6, unfinished
4. Ralf Steinbach (OSU) def. Julian Childers (ILL) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1
5. Martin Joyce (OSU) vs. Pengxuan Jiang (ILL) 4-6, 6-3, 4-0, unfinished
6. #90 Herkko Pollanen (OSU) def. Alex Jesse (ILL) 6-1, 7-5
1. #20 Mikael Torpegaard/Herkko Pollanen (OSU) def. Jared Hiltzik/Pengxuan Jiang (ILL) 6-3
2. #90 Aron Hiltzik/Aleks Vukic (ILL) def. #31 Ralf Steinbach/Martin Joyce (OSU) 6-3
3. Hugo Di Feo/Matt Mendez (OSU) def. Brian Page/Julian Childers (ILL) 7-5
Illinois 17-9 (8-3); National ranking #15
Ohio State 27-2 (11-0); National ranking #5
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (1,6,4)
Official: Marcus Lee T-2:41 A-292