Ohio State men’s tennis coach Ty Tucker settled on a pathway to victory in the NCAA championship match on Tuesday that included a lineup change.
The formula depended on winning the doubles point against host and No. 1 seed Wake Forest. It did not include needing a win from Tim Seibert at No. 4 singles, and Seibert’s loss was the clincher in Ohio State’s 4-2 loss to the Demon Deacons.
That’s no slap at Seibert, a freshman from Germany. It’s just that Tucker made a strategic decision to play Seibert after not using him in the Buckeyes’ previous three matches in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
By putting Seibert in the lineup, Tucker could put Kyle Seelig at No. 5 and Martin Joyce at No. 6, where they won handily as Tucker hoped. Tucker also had faith in Mikael Torpegaard at No. 1 singles, and he was leading when the match was clinched.
He had hoped that John McNally could win at No. 3, but the freshman lost to senior Skander Mansouri 6-2, 6-2. The doubles point loss — Joyce/Wolf and Torpegaard/McNally both lost 7-5 — forced the Buckeyes to need a surprise victory from No. 2 JJ Wolf or Seibert.
“If you don’t win the doubles point, it’s going to be a problem,” Tucker said. “It left you with no margin for error.”
Wolf lost 6-1, 6-3 to Petros Chrysochos, who spent time as the top-ranked college player this season. That left it up to Seibert, who led 5-2 in the second set after dropping the first set to Bar Botzer 6-4.
But Seibert lost the last five games to fall 7-5, giving Wake Forest its first national championship.
Ohio State (34-3) was in the finals for the second time. The Buckeyes lost to Southern California 4-1 in 2009.
“Tough match, great environment — something I’ll remember for the rest of my life and the guys will remember for the rest of their lives,” Tucker said. “Rarely do you have to play a team that’s hosting it. Thousands of people are out there yelling and screaming.”
According to Tucker, the crowd may have affected Seibert. He failed to hold serve at 5-3 in the second set and then lost his next service game. Botzer clinched the match with a service winner at 40-15.
“He’d never been in an environment like that,” Tucker said of Seibert. “They were in the lion’s den, or the Deacon’s den, I guess you could say. It wasn’t easy.”
It’s no coincidence that McNally, Seibert and Wolf, who’s a sophomore, are the Buckeyes’ youngest starters.
“We got beat up pretty good at 2, 3 and 4,” Tucker said. “That’s probably my fault. But I felt very good about Kyle Seelig and Marty Joyce, and they put points on the board very quickly.
“I’ll second-guess myself for the next 20 days, and then we’ll get back at it for summertime practice and try to make another run next year.”
Torpegaard led 6-4, 6-6 (3-3) over Borna Gojo when Wake Forest clinched the match.
He will compete, as will Wolf, in the NCAA singles tournament starting Wednesday. Torpegaard will team with Joyce in doubles.
Torpegaard, Seelig and Joyce were named to the all-tournament team, as was the doubles team of Matt Mendez and Hunter Tubert. Mendez and Tubert were down 6-5 in the tiebreak when the doubles point was clinched.