COLUMBUS, Ohio After splitting the weekend series with Michigan and Michigan State, the No. 43 Ohio State women’s tennis team (12-7, 5-1 Big Ten) will close out their home season this weekend with a Friday match with No. 36 Illinois (14-5, 5-1 Big Ten) at 3 p.m. and a Sunday contest with No. 38 Indiana (12-7, 4-2 Big Ten) at 11 a.m.
Both matches are scheduled to be played outside at the Stickney Tennis Center, but will be played at the indoor courts at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center in the case of poor weather conditions. Updates on the location of the match will be posted on OhioStateBuckeyes.com the morning before each match.
Sunday’s match with Indiana will be the final home match for a trio of Buckeye seniors. Julie Blackmore, Julie Voss and Angela DiPastina have combined to win 62 dual matches, 183 singles matches and 170 doubles matches during their career as Buckeyes. The three were also part of the historic 2008 campaign that saw the Buckeyes win a record 19 regular-season matches and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four seasons.
DiPastina’s 71 career singles victories places her eighth all-time for a Buckeye, one behind Michelle Matko (1998-03) in seventh. Blackmore’s 69 wins puts her in a tie for ninth with Leann Grimes (1975-78). Additionally, Blackmore’s 84 doubles wins are good for eighth all-time, while DiPastina’s 70 wins in paired play are tied for 14th with Susan Mitchell (1987-90). Blackmore holds the Ohio State single season record for doubles wins in a season, with 31 in 2008.
Each senior has also excelled in the classroom, helping lead the Buckeyes to ITA All-Academic Team Awards in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Voss is both a three-time ITA Scholar Athlete and Ohio State Scholar-Athlete, and a 2008 Academic All-Big Ten honoree. Blackmore holds two ITA Scholar-Athlete distinctions, three Ohio State Scholar-Athlete honors and two Academic All-Big Ten designations. DiPastina is a three-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete, two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and a 2008 ITA Scholar-Athlete.
SCOUTING THE FIGHTING ILLINI
Illinois remains in the thick of the Big Ten title race as the season comes to a close, in large part because of the stellar play of play of junior and 108th-ranked Megan Fudge, who is 16-2 this spring at No. 2 singles with a 5-1 mark in conference play. Leigh Finnegan heads the singles lineup, bringing an 11-7 mark in to play Friday at No. 1 singles. Marisa Lambropoulos is heating up as well, winning nine of her last 10 matches.
All four of the Fighting Illini’s losses have come at the hands of higher ranked teams. Two of those teams, No. 31 Washington and No. 13 Tennessee, each narrowly slipped by with 4-3 wins.
Illinois and Ohio State met last year in Columbus as well, where the Fighting Illini spoiled senior day with a 5-2 upset win. The teams clashed again in the Big Ten Tournament, where Illinois again got the better of the Buckeyes, this time winning 4-3. Illinois leads the all-time series, 25-12.
STATE OF THE HOOSIERS
The Hoosier’s singles lineup has been remarkably consistent, as the same five players have manned the No.1-No. 5 spots this spring. Senior Sigrid Fischer leads the team with 12 wins in singles, while fellow senior Alba Berdala and junior Lindsey Stuckey each have 10 wins.
Indiana has been excellent in tight matches this year, going 7-1in matches with a final score of 4-3. The Hoosiers have picked up marquee wins this spring over No. 34 Wake Forest and No. 47 Princeton, both 4-3 wins.
A blizzard in Columbus last season was not enough to keep the Hoosiers and Buckeyes off the court, where Indiana came away with a 4-3 win, despite wins in singles by Julie Blackmore, Christina Keesey and Cami Hubbs. The all-time series between the programs is decidedly one-sided, as Indiana holds a 30-5 advantage, although four of the losses have come during Chuck Merzbacher’s tenure as Buckeye head coach.
BRINGIN’ EM OUT
The Buckeyes are drawing out fans in record numbers this season, ranking fifth in the NCAA in overall average attendance with 132 per match. The season high for Ohio State came in the Big Ten opener against Penn State Feb. 28, when 240 came out to the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center to see the Buckeyes take a 6-1 win over the Nittany Lions.
If you haven’t caught a match yet this season, this weekend is your last chance, so don’t miss out.
Overall Average Attendance
Division I Women
1. Texas A&M: 424
2. Michigan: 175
3. Georgia: 159
4. Alabama: 133
5. Ohio State: 132
NO TROUBLES IN DOUBLES
The Buckeye doubles lineup looks to be rounding into postseason form as the spring season hits the home stretch. After beginning the season with a team record of 12-12 in paired play, Ohio State has gone 25-7 since, utilizing a lineup similar to the one employed in 2007-08. Angela DiPastina and Christina Keesey play No. 1, Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs play No. 2, while Paloma Escobedo and Kirsten Flower are at No. 3. All three teams have at least eight wins this spring.
Kirsten Flower continues to lead the team in wins this season, picking up seven victories in her last 10 matches to lead Ohio State with 17 wins overall in 2008-09. Senior Angela DiPastina is right on her heels with 15, while Julie Blackmore has 13, Kelsey Haviland has 12 and both Cami Hubbs and Christina Keesey have 10.
Christina Keesey has been sensational in singles this season, taking a 10-2 record into the weekend. After beginning the season sharing time at the No. 6 spot, Keesey has forced her way into the lineup, playing as high as No. 3 against Utah.
Depth in both the singles and doubles lineup has been a strength in 2009 for Ohio State, as the team is a combined 27-7 at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, while posting a 15-3 mark at No. 3 doubles. Blackmore, Keesey, DiPastina and Haviland have all played in the No. 5 and No. 6 singles spots this season, with DiPastina holding a perfect 12-0 record in those positions. Flower and Paloma Escobedo are the primary reason for the team’s success at No. 3 doubles, running off a 9-1 record at that spot this spring.
THE RACE FOR THE BIG TEN TITLE
This weekend will have a large hand in how the Big Ten standings shake out at year’s end. Illinois comes to town tied with the Buckeyes at 5-1 in conference play, while Indiana trails behind at 4-2, with losses coming against top-ranked Northwestern and the Fighting Illini. Michigan is ahead of Ohio State by one in the win column with a 6-1 Big Ten record, while No. 1 ranked Northwestern sits at a perfect 6-0.
The Buckeyes close out the 2008-09 Big Ten season next weekend with road engagements against top-ranked Northwestern Saturday April 17at noon EST in Evanston, Ill., and Wisconsin Sunday April 18 at noon EST in Madison, Wisc. Ohio State returns to the Badger State the next weekend for the Big Ten Conference Championships, April 23-26.
TAKING DOWN SPARTY
Ohio State did not waste its first opportunity to play outside in Columbus in two seasons, taking a 5-2 win over Michigan State at the Stickney Tennis Center Sunday. The Buckeyes, fueled by a doubles point win, finished off the Spartans in singles behind strong efforts from the top spots of Kirsten Flower and Paloma Escobedo.
Christina Keesey and Angela DiPastina were dominant at No. 1 doubles. The pair ran out to an early lead and did not look back against the 74th-ranked Spartan duo of Elena Ivanova and Stephanie Kebler, winning 8-2. Escobedo and Flower were equally proficient at No. 3, winning 8-1 over Whitney Wilson and Dana Guentert to pick up their team-leading ninth doubles win of the spring together. Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs finished it off for the Scarlet and Gray, nailing down an 8-5 victory at No. 2 over Christine Milliken and Ana Milosavljevic.
Flower kept her hot hitting as of late going at No. 1 singles, using a 6-1 first set win to overcome Kebler, 6-1, 7-5. The win was Flower’s 12th this spring and fifth against a Big Ten opponent, both team highs. Escobedo was next off the court for the Buckeyes after finishing off Ivanova at No. 2 singles with a straight set 6-2, 6-2 win.
With a 3-0 match lead for the Buckeyes in hand, Keesey slammed the door by knocking off Wilson at No. 4 singles. After losing the first set, 3-6, Keesey found no such difficulties in the second or third frames and clinched an Ohio State win with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory. DiPastina made it 5-0 Buckeyes after picking up a 7-5, 6-3 win at No. 6 singles over Lindsey Lonergan.
The last two matches of the day entered tiebreakers in place of a third set. After winning her first set against Guentert, 6-3, Blackmore fell in the second frame, 4-6 and eventually lost in the tiebreaker, 1-0 (13-11). Hubbs was also a victim in the tiebreaker at No. 3 after rallying from a 7-5 first set loss to take the second frame, 6-2 against Milosavljevic. The Michigan State senior came out ahead in the tiebreaker, 1-0 (10-7).
The return to the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center was not a sweet one for the No. 35 Ohio State women’s tennis team (11-7, 4-1 Big Ten), losing 5-2, against rival and 23rd-ranked Michigan (10-5, 5-1 Big Ten) Friday. The match was the first in Columbus since March 13 for the Buckeyes as well as their first Big Ten loss of 2009.
The top spot saw Kirsten Flower face off with 106th-ranked Rika Tatsuno, where the Buckeye junior recovered from a 6-3 first set loss by picking up a strong 6-2 second frame victory. Flower held a 5-3 third set advantage, but saw Tatsuno respond with three games of her own to take a 6-5 lead. After tying the set at 6-all, Flower shot out to a 3-1 tiebreaker lead. Tatsuno managed to get it to 5-all, but Flower would not be denied, winning the tiebreaker, set and match, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6).
Angela DiPastina lost in her first set at No. 6 singles to Michelle Sulahian, 7-6 (3), but rebounded in a big way in the second set by coming through with a 6-3 win. Tied at 6-all in the third, DiPastina and Sulahian went to a set tiebreaker, where the Buckeye senior outlasted the Michigan freshman to take the match, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4).
No. 4 singles pitted Buckeye Christina Keesey, winner of eight consecutive matches entering play, against Tania Mahtani. Keesey grabbed a 6-3 first set win, but Mahtani answered right back with a 6-1 second frame victory of her own. The third set would also belong to Mahtani, taking the match 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Cami Hubbs had a hard time getting things going against Michigan sophomore Denise Muresan at No. 3, falling in the first set 6-1. The second set saw more of a fight from Hubbs, rallying from a 4-1 hole to 4-3, before Muresan put the match away, 6-1, 6-4.
Paloma Escobedo took a 7-5 first set loss against the 67th-ranked Chisako Sugiyama at No. 2 singles. Sugiyama proved to be too tough in the second set as well, winning the set and the match, 7-5, 6-3.
Julie Blackmore took the first game of the first set at No. 5 before Whitney Taney ran off six wins in a row to claim the first frame. It was more of the same from the Wolverine sophomore in the second set, as Taney took a straight set, 6-1, 6-1 win.
In doubles, Escobedo and Flower saw their hard work pay off at No. 3, coming from behind to tie the match at five different occasions, before taking the match in a tiebreaker, 8-7 (5), over the Michigan team of Howard and Muresan.
After a 2-all deadlock at No. 2 doubles, the Michigan pair of Taney and Tatsuno ran off six consecutive wins over Blackmore and Hubbs, handing the Buckeyes an 8-2 loss. Keesey and DiPastina could not find their rhythm either at No. 1 against the 26th-ranked Wolverine tandem of Sugiyama and Mahtani, falling into a 5-0 match deficit before taking an 8-1 loss.