COLUMBUS, Ohio – The fifth-ranked Ohio State men’s tennis team captured its first ITA National Team Indoor Championship title with an impressive performance Monday for a 4-1 win over No. 3 USC in Houston, Texas. Guided by director of tennis and head coach Ty Tucker, the Buckeyes defeated four Top 25 teams, including two Top 5 programs en route to the national title and are now 13-0 overall in 2014 to put Ohio State at its best start to a season in program history.
“We were able to set the tone early on and Steinbach and Diaz fought back with five straight points in doubles to get it started,” Tucker said. “We rode Metka and Kobelt hard at No. 1 all weekend and they were able to win all of their matches for us. When you beat two teams back-to-back that have been dominating college tennis the last five years, it’s a great accomplishment. Everyone is playing for the team and the only thing that matters to these guys is that Ohio State wins.”
The Scarlet and Gray captured the doubles point and three of the four completed singles matches to defeat the Trojans, whose last loss was to Ohio State
in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Team Championships last May.
"The doubles point was huge today, senior Peter Kobelt said. “We didn't get the first point against Virginia and we are a much better team when we win in doubles. I know I had to play at my best for us to win vs. USC. This trophy we are bringing back is for all the former members that have played at Ohio State. This is a great accomplishment.”
Redshirt freshman Ralf Steinbach (Halle, Germany) clinched the championship for Ohio State with a 6-5 (7-4), 6-4 win over Connor Farren on court No. 4. Steinbach was down 3-0 and 4-2 in the tiebreaker before reeling off five consecutive points. The win improves Steinbach’s record to 10-1 on the season, with the Buckeye winning seven consecutive matches.
“To help the team clinch the match is an unbelievable feeling,” Steinbach said. “I was up a set and playing good tennis then I realized after Peter won, I had a chance to serve for the title. I was a little nervous. The deciding point came down to a volley and I was aggressive at the net and was able to place a good shot for the clinching point.”
In doubles action, the No. 2 duo of Kobelt (New Albany, Ohio) and Kevin Metka (Worthington, Ohio) were first off court, defeating No. 25 Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento
6-4 on court No. 1. Redshirt sophomore Chris Diaz (Columbus, Ohio) and Steinbach clinched the doubles point for the Buckeyes on court No. 3 with a 6-4 win over Eric Johnson and Max De Vroome. Redshirt junior Hunter Callahan (Lower Gwynedd, Pennsylvania) and freshman Herkko Pollanen (Helsinki, Finland) were trailing 3-5 on court No. 2 against Roberto Quiroz and Farren when play was called.
Ahead 1-0 in singles play, Ohio State and USC each took three first sets, but for the second-consecutive match, Callahan posted an upset on court No. 6 to finish first for the Buckeyes. He defeated No. 47 Jonny Wang 6-3, 6-4 for his 11th-consecutive win and give the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead.
No. 23 Kobelt also had his second-consecutive upset of the tournament, defeating No. 7 Sarmiento 6-3, 6-4 with an ace on match point. It was revenge for Kobelt, who lost to Sarmiento in the National Indoors Tournament this past fall.
The Trojans got on the board with No. 16 Hanfmann defeating Diaz 6-5 (7-4), 6-3, but it wasn’t long until Steinbach brought home the trophy with a winning volley. Remaining matches were suspended after Steinbach’s clinch, with Pollanen losing the first set, but a game away from winning the second on court No. 3. On court No. 5, Metka lost his first set in a tiebreaker and was on serve in the second when play was suspended.
The Buckeyes are now 3-5 all-time vs. USC, winning the last two meetings vs. the Trojans. The Scarlet and Gray are now 21-12 all-time at the tournament. In 2014, Ohio State has compiled a 7-0 record against ITA Top 25 teams in 2014 (No. 17 Kentucky, 4-0; No. 8 Texas A&M, 4-3; No. 12 Florida, 4-1, No. 10 Texas, 4-2; No. 1 Virginia, 4-3; No. 3 USC, 4-1).
Ohio State next hits the road at Notre Dame Feb. 22 before playing its first conference match of the year at Indiana Feb. 24. The 2014 indoor national champions will next be at home Feb. 28 when the Buckeyes host North Carolina at 6 p.m. Feb. 28. As always, admission is free.
2014 ITA Men’s Team Indoor Championship
No. 5 Ohio State 4, No. 3 USC 3
Downtown Club at the Met
Feb. 17, 2014
1. #23 Peter Kobelt (OSU) def. #7 Ray Sarmiento (USC) 6-3, 6-4
2. #16 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. Chris Diaz (OSU) 6-5 (7-4), 6-3
3. Herkko Pollanen (OSU) vs. Roberto Quiroz (USC) 3-6, 5-4, unfinished
4. Ralf Steinbach (OSU) def. Connor Farren (USC) 6-5 (7-4), 6-4
5. Kevin Metka (OSU) vs. Max De Vroome (USC) 5-6 (5-7), 4-5, unfinished
6. Hunter Callahan (OSU) def. #47 Jonny Wang (USC) 6-3, 6-4
1. #7 Peter Kobelt/Kevin Metka (OSU) def. #25 Yannick Hanfmann/Ray Sarmiento (USC) 6-4
2. Hunter Callahan/Herkko Pollanen (OSU) def. Roberto Quiroz/Connor Farren (USC) 3-5, unfinished
3. Chris Diaz/Ralf Steinbach (OSU) def. Eric Johnson/Max De Vroome (USC) 6-4
Southern California 7-1; National ranking #3
Ohio State 13-0; National ranking #5
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (6,1,2,4)
• For the eighth-consecutive season, Ohio State was crowned the Big Ten regular-season champions and won the conference tournament title seven of the last eight seasons in 2013.
• Ohio State has won 181-consecutive matches in Columbus (9-0 in 2014). The streak is the longest active among Division I sports.
• The Buckeyes have been ranked in the ITA Top 10 for 238 consecutive matches (beginning March 7, 2006.
• Since 1999, Ohio State is 396-48 (.892) when ranked in the ITA Top 25.
• The Buckeyes have reached the ITA National Team indoor finals five times and are now 21-12 all-time at the tournament.
• Ohio State becomes the first Big Ten school to win a team indoor title since Illinois in 2004.