Memorial Day 2017 is a day to remember for Ohio State women’s tennis, as Francesca Di Lorenzo and Miho Kowase claimed the program’s first NCAA championship, winning the doubles title in Athens, Ga. The duo notched five wins in five days to end the 32-team NCAA doubles tournament as CHAMPS.
Di Lorenzo, a sophomore, and Kowase, a senior, entered the NCAA Tournament unseeded and ranked 18th. In their championship run, they defeated three Top 10 teams and had three super tiebreaker victories en route to the title. They were the first Buckeye team to reach the semifinal round.
The tandem rallied to beat the No. 3 seed from Georgia on its home court in the first round, prevailing in a super tiebreaker, before a straight-set victory against No. 16 Auburn. After another come-from-behind super tiebreaker win over Kentucky’s No. 6-ranked duo, the Buckeyes won in straight sets in the semifinals against a team from Cal. In the final against No. 5-ranked Maddie Pothoff and Erin Routliffe from Alabama, Di Lorenzo and Kowase dropped the first set in a tiebreaker but won the second, 6-4. In the match tiebreaker, with the first team to 10 claiming the title, the Buckeyes were down 5-6 before running off four straight points to go ahead 9-6. Bama was able to hold off one match point but a huge service return from Di Lorenzo forced a long return from the Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes closed out the match. NCAA Doubles Championship full recap
The duo, who were 23-1 as a tandem in 2017, ended the year as All-Americans (the second Buckeye doubles team to earn the accolade) and captured ITA Collegiate All-Star Team honors. Kowase set the program record for single-season doubles wins with 33 in 2017.
The match was the final for Kowase after four seasons in the Scarlet and Gray, as she finished her career with a program-record 112 singles wins and 213 singles and doubles combined victories, ranking second all-time in doubles wins (101). She is one of just two Buckeyes with more than 100 singles wins and one of two with more than 100 doubles victories.
Di Lorenzo, who was ranked No. 1 in singles by the ITA as both a freshman and sophomore, turned professional the following fall after a two-year Buckeye career that saw her earn Big Ten Player of the Year accolades twice, two singles All-America accolades and three ITA national singles crowns. She set the program single-season record as a freshman in 2016 with 37, matching the total as a sophomore She has been ranked as high as No. 118 in the world in singles.
The 2017 season was also one for the record books for the Buckeyes as a team. The squad, which was 32-3, won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, hosted NCAA Tournament matches as the No. 3 seed and reached the NCAA team semifinals. Di Lorenzo and Kowase were also part of Big Ten regular season and tournament titles in 2016, when the squad hosted NCAA matches for the first time and reached the NCAA team quarterfinals as the No. 4 seed.