Cecil, Manashirov and Steele complete Ohio State class of 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio Chuck Merzbacher, Ohio State women’s tennis head coach, announced the Buckeyes have received NCAA National Letters of Intent for 2009 from five-star recruits Kara Cecil, Fidan Manashirov and Gabrielle Steele.

“I am very excited about this years class,” Merzbacher said. “Adding three players to a roster of eight, this is a large class and very important class to the future of the program. I am confident these three will allow us to compete for a Big Ten Conference championship and Top 20 nationally.”

All three national Top-100 tennis players continued an Ohio State tradition of recruiting well both at home and nationwide in recent years, with Manashirov hailing from California, Steele from Ohio and Cecil from Florida.

Cecil, a native of Plant City, Fla., is ranked as the No. 57 player in the class of 2009 by In 2008, she reached the quarterfinals of the USTA national Open Girls 18’s National Open in Naples and Tallahassee and was ranked among the Top 10 in the state of Florida.

“Kara hits a very heavy ball that makes her tough to play,” Merzbacher said. “She competes in an extremely competitive region, so she is used to day in and day out strong competition. Her big-game potential and hard-working attitude will allow her to adapt to the collegiate level where the game becomes a lot more physical.”

As a junior,  Cecil reached the finals of the USTA national Open Girls 16’s in Atlanta while also leading her USTA Intersectional team to an undefeated record. She was twice the Florida Designated Champion in 2006 and was a finalist at the FSHAA State Championships that same season.

Manashirov comes to Ohio State after a distinguished prep career that saw her ranked as the No. 29 player in the class of 2009 by The Elk Grove, Calif., native was ranked in the Northern California girls 14’s, girls 16’s and girls 18’s and defeated eight blue chip prospects over the course of her career. The Gorwin Tennis Academy product has been equally stellar in doubles play, reaching the finals of multiple International Tennis Federation events.

“Fidan has extensive playing experience at the international level,” Merzbacher said. “She has some very impressive wins against some of the top players in the nation and her decision to leave the tennis rich state of California and play for the Buckeyes says a lot about our program and the ability to attract kids from across the nation. I know Fidan will make an instant impact on our lineup.”

The final signee, Steele, hails from Cincinnati and Summit Country Day High School. A four-time OHSAA state tournament participant, Steele was the Ohio State Division II champion as a junior in 2007, defeating current Buckeye freshman Kelsey Haviland in the championship match.

“Gabby is a proven winner as her resume shows,” Merzbacher said. “She has dominated Ohio tennis and can compete with anyone in the nation. She is a top Ohio player who has chosen to stay home and line up for the Buckeyes. She competes as well as anyone I’ve seen out there. I know she will bring that competitiveness to practice and matches as a Buckeye.”

Ranked as the No. 41 recruit in the class of 2009 by, Steele has been consistently ranked among the nation’s elite throughout her prep career. She was also recognized by the Ohio State Senate with resolution No. 145 and was featured in ESPN Rise magazine.