A storybook finish for two Ohio natives ended just short on championship Monday as senior Peter Kobelt and redshirt junior Kevin Metka on the Ohio State men’s tennis team fell 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-7 (6) to second-seeded Hunter Reese and Mikelis Libietis of Tennessee in the final of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Division I Doubles Championship in Athens, Ga.
Three-time All-American Kobelt, a native of New Albany, Ohio, finishes his Ohio State career first on the doubles career wins list (142) and second on the combined (267). The 2014 ITA National Most Improved Senior, Kobelt’s 44 doubles wins this year ties the school record set by former Buckeye Chase Buchanan in 2012. Metka, a native of Worthington, Ohio, wraps up a breakout season with 43 doubles wins, which is tied for third on the single-season list.
“It’s tough,” Kobelt said. “They’re a good serving team. They showed why they are the best team in the country. They came up with plays at the end and did what they had to do. It’s disappointing, but it’s been a heck of a year and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. As a senior, it’s tough, but you can’t ask for much more than having a national championship match on your resume.”
It was the gutsiest performance witnessed by the crowd on hand at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in the final match of the 2014 tennis collegiate season. Like they’ve done all year, Metka and Kobelt battled to the finish, fighting off three championship match points against Tennessee.
Not once was a side broken on serve in each of the three sets. Huge serves by both Kobelt and Metka were tough to handle all afternoon by Tennessee setting up three-consecutive tiebreakers. In the first breaker, Reese and Mikelis earned a mini break on a ball that hit the top of the net and fell over to the Ohio State side for the point. They would then hold serve to win the first, 7-6(4).
In the second set, Kobelt fought off two match points to force the breaker. Down 3-1, the Buckeye pair rallied to take a 5-3 advantage following a big forehand winner by Kobelt. Metka then finished off the breaker with a service winner to win the second set, 7-6 (3).
The Scarlet and Gray duo looked stronger and stronger on serve in the third set as the momentum seemed to have swing, but Tennessee was able to hold as well to set up a dramatic finish. In the third-set tiebreaker, the Volunteers got off to a fast start to take a 3-0 lead, but the Buckeyes rallied once again to a 5-4 advantage after a backhand return winner down the line followed by back-to-back overhead points by Metka. Tennessee rebounded quickly to earn a third championship point at 6-5, but Kobelt was able to keep the match alive on a volley in front of net to knot it, 6-6. However, a double fault by Ohio State gave the Volunteers a fourth championship point and they were able to clinch the title, 7-6 (6).
“It’s been five years of a lot of work,” Kobelt said. “It’s tough but I am proud of my teammates and proud of Kevin.”
It will be a season to remember for the Buckeye men’s tennis team that lost five of seven starters from a Final Four team in 2013. Under head coach Ty Tucker, the Buckeyes have advanced either a singles player or doubles team to a NCAA final for three-consecutive years. The team concluded the 2014 campaign with a 33-4 mark, winning their ninth-consecutive Big Ten regular season championship and also claiming the tournament title. Under Tucker, the team also won its first indoor national championship, while advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament for the ninth-consecutive year.