COLUMBUS, Ohio The regular season comes to a close this weekend for the No. 39 Ohio State women’s tennis team(13-8, 6-2 Big Ten) as it heads off to take on No. 1 Northwestern (20-1, 8-0 Big Ten) at noon EST Friday in Evanston, Ill., and No. 74 Wisconsin (7-13, 2-6 Big Ten) at noon EST Sunday in Madison, Wis.

The Buckeyes can clinch the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with one win this weekend. The Big Ten tournament will take place April 23-26, in Madison, Wis.

The Wildcats have been simply dominant this season, going wire-to-wire as No. 1 in the ITA/Campbell’s College Tennis Rankings. Northwestern took home the 2009 ITA National Indoor Championship in February, defeating Georgia 4-1 to become the first Big Ten school to capture the prize.

Undefeated in Big Ten play thus far, the Wildcats (20-1) only loss this season was a 4-3 loss to No. 3 Duke, a team they had beaten just two weeks earlier by the same score. They are also battle-tested, playing 10 Top 20 teams this year, going 9-1. Northwestern has been especially good in conference in 2009, earning 54 of a potential 56 points against Big Ten foes.

No. 1 Maria Mosolova, No. 22 Georgia Rose, No. 47 Samantha Murray and No. 117 Lauren Lui lead the Wildcat singles attack, while the No. 19 duo of Rose and Lui and the No. 39 tandem of Mosolova and Keri Robinson head up the doubles lineup. Six Northwestern athletes have 20 or more singles wins in 2008-09, with Murray leading the team with 29 wins.

The Buckeyes and Wildcats have met 32 times before, with Northwestern coming out ahead in 27 of those matches. The last meeting came last season in Evanston, where Ohio State lost 7-0. Ohio State head coach Chuck Merzbacher has three career wins over the Wildcats, all coming while with the Buckeyes.

Wisconsin looks to be peaking at the right time, coming off a weekend sweep of Minnesota and Iowa to pick up its first Big Ten wins of the season. The Badgers have navigated a tough schedule in 2009, taking losses against top-ranked Northwestern, No. 3 Duke, No. 6 Miami (Fla.), No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 North Carolina.

The No. 1 doubles team of Elizabeth Carpenter and Angela Chupa is 7-7 this spring, leading the Badgers in doubles wins. Carpenter also plays No. 1 singles, going 8-12 at the top spot. Chupa plays toward the bottom of the singles lineup, winning a team-high nine singles matches.

Ohio State and Wisconsin met in Madison last season, where the Buckeyes picked up a 5-2 win. The Badgers have historically been the stronger team, going 30-8 all-time against Ohio State, but the Scarlet and Gray have won the last two matches between the teams.

The weekend matches will be the last regular season matches for a trio of Buckeye seniors. Julie Blackmore, Julie Voss and Angela DiPastina have combined to win 63 dual matches, 185 singles matches and 173 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 72 career singles victories places her seventh all-time for a Buckeye while Blackmore’s 70 wins puts her right behind in ninth place. Additionally, Blackmore’s 85 doubles wins are good for eighth all-time, while DiPastina’s 72 wins in paired play are good for 13th all-time. Blackmore holds the Ohio State single season record for doubles wins in a season, with 31 in 2008. Voss led the Buckeyes in singles wins as a sophomore with 23 and has 43 career singles victories.

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.

The Buckeyes drew out fans in record numbers this season, ranking fifth in the NCAA in overall average attendance with 132 per match through the matches of April 5. 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.

Overall Average Attendance
Division I Women
School Avg.

1. Texas A&M: 424
2. Michigan: 175
3. Georgia: 159
4. Alabama: 133
5. Ohio State: 132

The Buckeye doubles lineup looks to be rounding into postseason form as the spring season hits the final weekend. After beginning the season with a team record of 12-12 in paired play, Ohio State has gone 30-8 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 nine wins this spring.

Kirsten Flower continues to lead the team in wins this season with 18 wins overall in 2008-09. Senior Angela DiPastina is right on her heels with 16, while Julie Blackmore has 14, and both Kelsey Haviland Christina Keesey have 13.

Christina Keesey has been sensational in singles this season, winning in nine of her last 10 and taking a 12-2 spring record into the weekend. After beginning the season sharing time at the No. 6 spot, Keesey has forced her way into the lineup, playing at No. 3 last weekend against Indiana.

Depth in both the singles and doubles lineup has been a strength in 2009 for Ohio State, as the team is a combined 31-11 at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, while posting a 17-3 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 13-1 record in those positions. Flower and Paloma Escobedo are the primary reason for the team’s success at No. 3 doubles, running off an 11-1 record at that spot this spring.

Seeding for the Big Ten Tournament will be up for grabs this weekend all over the conference. Ohio State needs one win to lock down a No. 4 seed, while two Buckeye wins and two losses from either Michigan or Illinois will land the Ohio State a No. 3 seed. Indiana needs two Buckeye losses and two wins of their own to jump into the No. 4 position.

Ohio State is guaranteed not to play on the first day of competition, which is a battle of teams seeded No. 6-No. 11.

The Buckeyes shut out No. 38 Indiana, 7-0, last Sunday. The match was the last regular-season home match in Columbus for the senior trio of Julie Blackmore, Angela DiPastina and Julie Voss and the group was honored in a postmatch ceremony. Ohio State improves to 13-8 this season and 6-2 in Big Ten action. The Hoosiers drop to 13-8 and 5-3 in conference play.

Ohio State won the doubles point, with easy wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and a tiebreaker victory at No. 3. The No. 1 duo of Christina Keesey and Angela DiPastina never trailed against Maria Guerreiro and Katya Zapadalova, taking a 2-0 lead en route to an 8-3 win. At No. 2 Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs were tied with Hoosiers Sigrid Fischer and Charlotte Martin at 1-all and 2-all before winning the last six games in an 8-2 victory to clinch the doubles point for the Buckeyes. No. 3 doubles between Buckeyes Paloma Escobedo and Kirsten Flower and IU’s Myriam Sopel and Lindsey Stuckey came down to a set tiebreaker after the Hoosiers won two games to tie the match at 7-all. After the Buckeyes jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak, IU was able to cut the lead to 3-2 but Ohio State held strong and won, 7-5.

The Buckeyes won all six singles matches, with four two-set sweeps. Flower was off the court in an hour, dispatching Zapadalova in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0, at No. 1. Blackmore followed with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Lindsey Stuckey at No. 5. After winning the first set in a tiebreaker at No. 3 vs. Berdala, Keesey ran off a 6-1 victory in set two to post the match winning point for the Buckeyes.

After dropping the first set at No. 4 vs. Fischer, 6-3, DiPastina lost just two games the rest of the way, closing out the match with 6-0, 6-2 wins in the second and third sets, respectively.

At No. 6 against Sopel, Kelsey Haviland won the first set, 6-3, before dropping the second, 7-5. She rallied from a 6-3 deficit in the super tiebreaker, winning three-consecutive points to tie it at 6-all. After Sopel went ahead, 7-6, Haviland won the final four points to claim the match, 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 (7). Escobedo was the final match on the court, where she defeated Martin at No. 2 with two tiebreaker wins, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4). Escobedo, who had to rally to tie the second set at 6-all, took a 2-1 lead in the tiebreaker and never trailed again.

Ohio State fell to No. 36 Illinois, 5-2, last Friday at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center. The match, which lasted nearly four and a half hours, saw the Fighting Illini claim four singles matches in the third set.

The doubles point was tightly contested at all three positions. The first Buckeye doubles win came at No. 3, where Paloma Escobedo and Kirsten Flower fought out of an early 3-1 deficit to sweep past the Fighting Illini pair of Amy Allin and Annie McCarthy, 8-5.

After Chelcie Abajian and Leigh Finnegan ran out to a 2-0 lead at No. 1, Christina Keesey and Angela DiPastina locked down, running off four games in a row to take a 4-2 lead. The Buckeye duo kept the pressure on, moving the match to 7-6, where DiPastina spiked home the winning point to take the match and a doubles point win, 8-6. The final doubles match was won by Illinois, with Megan Fudge and Marisa Lambropolous taking an 8-6 win over Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs at No. 2.

Keesey got Ohio State started in singles, winning 6-2, 6-0 over Lambropoulos at No. 4. The win was Keesey’s 11th this spring, running her record in dual matches to 11-2. Hubbs had a hard time getting it going at No. 3 singles against Chelcie Abajian, taking a 6-2 first set loss. The Buckeye sophomore rallied in the second set to take a 3-0 frame lead, before Abajian came back to take the match, 6-2, 6-4, and give Illinois its first point of the day.

Flower found a tough fight at No. 1 with the 108th-ranked Fudge. After a relatively easy 6-2 first set win from Flower, the Fighting Illini junior powered her way to a 6-4 second set victory. The third set also belonged to Fudge, who ran away with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 win and tied the match score at 2-all.

DiPastina fought her way back from a 6-4 first set loss at No. 5 to deal Allin a 6-4 second frame defeat. The match looked all but over in the third set, as the Illinois freshman held a 5-1 advantage. DiPastina, however, did not back down and fought her way back, winning four consecutive games and tying the match at 5-all. After splitting the next two games, the pair entered a tiebreaker that would decide the match. Allin held a one to two point advantage throughout the tiebreaker and eventually won the game, set and match, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5). Allin’s win put Illinois up 3-2 on the match, a deficit that Ohio State would be unable to overcome.

Escobedo took a 6-4 first set loss against Leigh Finnegan at No. 2, and was on the losing end of a 5-3 score late in the second frame before making a furious charge and winning four consecutive games to take the second set, 7-5. The third set mirrored the second, as Finnegan saw her 4-1 lead shrink to 4-3. This time, Escobedo just did not have enough left in the tank, and Finnegan took the match by a score of 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Finnegan’s win gave Illinois the clinching point, going up 4-2.

Blackmore, who was the final match of the day, turned a 0-2 first set deficit into a 6-2 win in the opening frame with six consecutive wins over Kristina Minor at No. 6. The second set was far more contentious, as each player traded points, tying at 6-6. Tied at 8-all in the second set tiebreaker, Minor broke it open and took the second set, 7-6 (10-8). Minor went up 4-1 in the third set and from there coasted in, taking the match, 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-3.