Ohio State University
Taylor Linton | May 2, 2019
While the talent pool for NCAA Division I tennis spans the globe, Ohio State University has found success by looking local. The Buckeyes have bucked the international trend and earned the overall No. 1 seed for the NCAA Championships, set to begin on May 3.
An anomaly for a top-tier Division I program, the Ohio State roster is made up predominantly of players from the United States, specifically players from the state of Ohio and the region around it. On the 10-man roster, four players hail from Ohio and another four come from the region, with only two players being international.
Coach Ty Tucker focuses on recruiting not only the best players, but also players comfortable in an indoor facility.
“Obviously we try to recruit the best players we can get,” he said. “But one of the challenges you get at a place like Ohio State, or anywhere in the Big Ten, is you need guys that know their way around an indoor surface. ADVERTISEMENT Recruiting guys from Pennsylvania or Ohio or Illinois, you get guys who are used to playing tennis six months a year indoors. They have a good idea on what indoor tennis looks like.”
The local connection has helped foster team chemistry for the Big Ten regular season and tournament champions, according to junior Alex Kobelt.
“A lot of us grew up together and played in the same section and saw each other in juniors,” the New Albany, Ohio, native said. “Coming to school, we all kind of knew each other. We’re all really close now. We do a lot of stuff together, we’re on the courts and in the weight room a lot. We’re also with each other and hanging out off the courts.”
The Buckeyes bring in recruits that work well and compete well together. Last season, the program reached the finals of the NCAA tournament. Although they succumbed to Wake Forest University in a 4-2 decision, the loss didn’t stop the program. Instead, it drove them to success: at the 2019 ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, the Buckeyes redeemed themselves, taking down the Demon Deacons in the title match.
John McNally, of Cincinnati, and Kobelt both credit that indoor championship as their proudest collegiate moment.
“Every match I win is a big deal, but I think the best moment as a team player was this year winning the National Indoors,” McNally said. “Our program is so good and we’ve come up short of winning national titles so many times. It’s always nice to help Coach Tucker and the Ohio State program get another championship in the book.”
Kobelt agreed: “My proudest moment is probably the recent win of the National Indoors. Being on a team with a bunch of guys from the Midwest and the Ohio area who all came together and play well and win a title, it’s unforgettable. It’s something that will last forever.”
The Buckeyes came into the 2018-19 season after losing one of their top players, Mikael Torpeegard, to graduation. With a couple other seniors graduating last spring, this year’s team had a new look, with two new freshmen in the mix. Figuring out the lineup and the new player’s strengths was a challenge early in the season.
“I think we were a little unsure how the season was going to go. We lost Torpeegard, who was arguably the best player in the nation for the last few seasons,” McNally said. “It’s really been a pleasant surprise. The team really meshed together and a few players have really stepped up and filled spots. The team chemistry is really good right now and we’re on a roll, so hopefully we can keep it up.”
After winning the Big Ten tournament title, the Buckeyes are poised for a deep run in the NCAA Championships, with the goal of hoisting their first NCAA team trophy over their heads in Orlando in May.
For more on the NCAA Championships, including ticket information, visit the USTA National Campus website.
(Photo courtesy of the Ohio State University)