COLUMBUS, Ohio With the majority of the non-Big Ten schedule behind them, the 37th-ranked Ohio State women’s tennis team (5-5, 0-0 Big Ten) will open up Big Ten play against Penn State (2-7, 0-1 Big Ten) at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center. Live stats from the match will be available on OhioStateBuckeyes.com
The Nittany Lions come to Columbus after opening their Big Ten season last weekend against Purdue, going down 6-1. Five of the seven losses this season for Penn State have come against ranked opponents, including a tight 4-3 loss against No. 66 South Alabama.
Monika Mical has played No. 1 singles this season for the Nittany Lions, going 3-6 during the spring. Her 11 total singles wins in 2008-09 are tied with teammate Lauren McCarthy for most on the team. Mical and doubles partner Sarah Lotto are 3-3 this season at No. 1 doubles.
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Penn State, 23-12, including a 12-3 mark under head coach Chuck Merzbacher. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions met last season in University Park, where Ohio State took home a 5-2 win behind singles wins from Paloma Escobedo, Julie Blackmore, Cami Hubbs and Christina Keesey.
Merzbacher is 8-4 in Big Ten home openers as head coach of the Buckeyes, including three wins over Penn State. (2000, 2002, 2004)
Two Buckeye upperclassmen have been on fire this spring season. Senior Angela DiPastina has run off a 9-1 spring season record in singles and has moved from the No. 6 spot up to the No. 4 position in the most recent match against Oregon.
DiPastina’s 69 career singles wins are tied for eighth most all-time at Ohio State with Leann Grimes (1975-78) and leaves her three wins shy of seventh-place Michelle Matko (1999-03). Classmate Julie Blackmore is hot on her heels, with 66 career singles wins.
Junior Kirsten Flower, who transferred to Ohio State this season from Georgia Tech, has run off four-consecutive straight set victories against ranked opponents in No. 1 singles, including a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 42 Jennifer Stevens of Virginia.
Chuck Merzbacher will be seeking his 100th career home win as Buckeye head coach and 75th career win over a Big Ten school as a head coach at both Ohio State and Kansas.
BIG WINS OUT WEST
Ohio State returned to its winning ways last weekend in Eugene, Ore., where the Buckeyes took down both No. 57 Washington State and No. 46 Oregon by the same score, 5-2.
The Saturday match with the Cougars saw Ohio State dominate the doubles point, as each Buckeye doubles team won its match. Kirsten Flower took down Ekaterina Kamendova at the top singles spot, 6-1, 6-1 to start things off, while Paloma Escobedo followed suit in No. 2 singles, dropping Elisabeth Fournier, 6-2, 6-4.
Cami Hubbs locked up a win in No. 3 singles, while Christina Keesey took care of business from the No. 6 position.
Ohio State was locked in a tight battle in doubles on Sunday against No. 46 Oregon, seeing two matches enter tiebreakers. Keesey and Angela DiPastina escaped in No. 1 doubles with a 9-8 (3) win, while Flower and Escobedo were not as fortunate in No. 3 doubles, falling 9-8 (4). Hubbs and Julie Blackmore pulled out a win from the No. 2 spot to help give the Buckeyes the doubles point.
Flower again won in No. 1 singles, her fourth-consecutive win, while Keesey and DiPastina took home wins in No. 4 and No. 5 singles, respectively. Kelsey Haviland won her first match of the weekend at the No. 6 spot to help lock up the Buckeye win.
TOP OF THE CLASS
The Buckeyes’ 2010 recruiting class of Fidan Manashirov, Kara Cecil and Gabby Steele has been ranked as the 12th-best in the nation, according to the Tennis Recruiting Network. The Big Ten as a whole enjoyed recruiting success, as the Buckeyes are one of four teams ranked in the Top 15.
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.
Cecil, a native of Plant City, Fla., is ranked as the No. 57 player in the class of 2009 by tennisrecruiting.net. 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.
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 tennisrecruiting.net. 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.
O! SO CLOSE!
After falling to No. 9 Duke, 4-2, on Feb. 1, the Buckeyes traveled to face SEC foe Kentucky Feb. 4. The match lasted more than six hours, seeing Ohio State take the doubles point before the 20th-ranked Wildcats stormed back in singles to reclaim a 3-2 match lead.
Angela DiPastina won her match from the No. 6 position, but Kelsey Haviland came up just short in her bid for a win from the No. 5 spot. The Buckeyes pushed five singles contests into three sets, but ultimatly fell, 4-3.
A return to Columbus came the following weekend, where No. 29 Virginia came calling. This time it was the Buckeyes who entered singles down 1-0 after dropping the doubles point. Kirsten Flower and Paloma Escobedo took care of business from the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, but saw the Cavaliers pull out victories in No. 3 or No. 4 singles.
DiPastina again won her match, this time from the No. 5 spot, but junior Christina Keesey couldn’t pull out the deciding match from the No. 6 position, falling in three sets to give Virginia a 4-3 victory.
The last match of the weekend came against No. 52 Virginia Tech, who came in hot after giving No. 4-ranked Baylor a scare earlier in the season. Again Ohio State dropped the doubles point but came out firing in singles, picking up wins from Flower, DiPastina and Cami Hubbs.
Haviland fell at the No. 6 spot, Blackmore was downed in No. 4 singles and Escobedo lost in the clinching match at the No. 2 position, handing Ohio State its third-consecutive loss by the score of 4-3.
ON THE HORIZON
After opening up the Big Ten season, the Buckeyes have a home date with the Rice Owls March 3, followed by a trip to Tampa March 8 for a match against South Florida. A home contest with Purdue will take place March 13, followed by a trip to Las Vegas March 23 for a showdown with Utah.
The spring dual match season will take the Buckeyes all over the United States, including destinations in at least nine different states and nearly 7000 miles of travel.
Date Location Miles Traveled
1/31 Durham, N.C. 354
2/4 Lexington, Ky. 157
2/21 Eugene, Ore. 2,060
3/8 Tampa, Fla. 831
3/23 Las Vegas, Nev. 1,726
3/27 Iowa City, Iowa 462
3/29 Minneapolis, Minn. 245
4/18 Evanston, Ill. 284
4/19 Madison, Wisc. 112
4/23 Madison, Wisc. 395