Ohio State defeated Columbia 4-1 in the round of 16 of the NCAA men’s tennis tournament Saturday, remaining unbeaten at home in postseason matches.
The win pushed the top-seeded Buckeyes into the NCAA quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive season.
Strong finishes by JJ Wolf and John McNally in the top-two singles matches provided the Buckeyes (32-2) with the decisive points over the Lions (19-4).
Wolf needed to mount a comeback after dropping the first set, 4-6, to Victor Pham, the back-to-back Ivy League player of the year. During the match, Ohio State coach Ty Tucker huddled near him on his end of the court and offered some extra encouragement.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
“JJ gets some pep talks here and there,” Tucker said. “Sometimes it's not a pep talk. Sometimes it's more like a foot.”
Tucker stopped there.
“He was just telling me to do my thing,” Wolf said. “'I know you can do this.’”
The exchange resonated.
“It was short, sweet,” Wolf said. “It made me want to work.”
Wolf won the next two sets, 6-1, 6-1, with ease. Ranked second in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, Wolf has won 32 of 33 singles matches this season.
He made a handful of in-match adjustments, changing his posture by crouching lower to the surface and altering his returns to some of Pham’s slower-moving serves that could be difficult to read.
McNally clinched the victory when he won his singles match, 6-3, 7-5, over Jack Lin.
On the final point, Lin missed his second serve for a double fault. In a matter of seconds in celebration, McNally dropped his racket and raised his arms into the air. Wolf hurried over as the players began a midair chest bump amid roaring cheers from the home crowd that had filled the stands at Ohio State’s outdoor courts on a sunny afternoon.
“I've never played a match at Ohio State with that many people here,” McNally said.
The Buckeyes moved to 29-0 all-time in NCAA tournament home matches.
Ohio State had a fast start by nabbing the doubles points. Wolf and Martin Joyce won 6-2, and McNally and Hunter Tubert 6-3.
The first singles point for the Buckeyes came as Tubert defeated Austen Huang, 6-1, 6-4.
The Buckeyes were in line to play the winner between eighth-seeded USC and ninth-seeded North Carolina in the quarterfinals. The teams were scheduled to play later Saturday in Los Angeles.
Along with its fourth consecutive trip to the quarterfinals, it was also the 14th time in 15 seasons that the Buckeyes advanced to this stage of the tournament.
“Any time you go to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, it feels good,” Tucker said.