The second-ranked and No. 1 seed Ohio state men’s tennis team (30-3) won its eighth Big Ten tournament title in nine years after defeating second seed Illinois, 4-2, Sunday in the championship final at the MSU Outdoor Tennis Courts in East Lansing, Mich. With the title, the Buckeyes have now won 10 tournament championships in program history, including nine tournament crowns under director of tennis and head coach Ty Tucker
“It was another hard-fought match,” Tucker said. “Our guys stepped up to the challenge when they needed to. We knew it was going to be a back-and-fourth battle when you play a Top 10 team like Illinois. Ralf, Kevin and Hunter showed their toughness today and we took advantage of our opportunities and made Illinois pay for it. It was a great win for the Buckeyes.”
Redshirt junior Hunter Callahan
, who leads the team with 32 overall victories in 2014, claimed match point for the Buckeyes, winning 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 against Ross Guignon on court No. 5. With the memorable win, the 2014 second team All-Big ten honoree extends his singles win streak to 11-consectutive matches.
Earning the Big Ten Conference automatic bid into the NCAA championships, which begin the weekend of May 9, Ohio State has won back-to-back tournament titles after falling to Illinois during the 2012 final. The team has appeared in the B1G final 12 times under Tucker. Exactly one week ago, Ohio State won its ninth-consecutive regular-season title with a 6-1 win over Nebraska. The Buckeyes have now defeated Illinois in six out of the last eight tournament finals, while beating Michigan last year in Columbus.
In doubles, Ohio State jumped out to a 1-0 lead over the Illini winning its 24th doubles point of the year. Illinois claimed the first match on court No. 3 with an 8-4 win over Callahan and Chris Diaz. However, the Buckeyes won both matches on Nos. 2 and 1, respectively, by four games apiece. Herkko Pollanen
and Kevin Metka
defeated Jared Hiltzik and Alex Jesse, 8-4, while No. 57 Peter Kobelt
and Ralf Steinbach
upset fourth-ranked Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon, 8-4, to clinch the first point of the match. Kobelt and Steinbach improve to 9-1 overall and have won six-consecutive matches.
Ohio State won four first sets in singles vs. the Illini. The match became tied when No. 7 Kobelt fell to eighth-ranked Jared Hiltzik 7-5, 6-2 on court No. 1. The Buckeyes then regained the lead after Steinbach posted a 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 upset over No. 57 Tim Kopinski on court No. 3. Steinbach improves to 24-4 overall with a 3-0 mark at No. 3 singles. The Fighting Illini would not go down quietly, winning a second singles match on No. 2 as No. 97 Pollanen fell to No. 17 Goseas, 6-2, 6-4. But the Buckeyes still had the momentum, leading in the final three singles matches on courts 4-6.
Metka put the Scarlet and Gray within one point of the title when he won his second-set tiebreaker to claim a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) match over Jesse on court No. 6. Diaz led Blake Bazarnik in his third set 7-5, 2-6, 5-4 before play was suspended following Callahan’s clinching point.
Under Tucker, Ohio State has now claimed at least 30 wins in eight-consecutive years as the team will now prepare for NCAA play in two weeks. The NCAA Men's Tennis Selection show will be web streamed live on ncaasports.com
at 5 p.m. April 29. The singles and doubles selection will take place at 6 p.m. April 30.