OSU men's tennis beats USC, advances to NCAA quarterfinals for first time since 2018

Bailey Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State tennis coach Ty Tucker said a loss against USC "almost felt like it (would be) a fireable offense."

Jake Van Emburgh could see it slipping away.

Trailing 4-2 in the third set of his NCAA Super Regional match against Ryan Colby, the fifth-year Ohio State senior refused to let an overall loss come down to his performance. Van Emburgh came back to tie the set at four games apiece, then broke Colby's serve to take a 5-4 lead and serve for – not just his own win – but the overall match win. 

Up 40-30 in what proved to be the match's final game, Van Emburgh fired a near-ace. As Colby's return sailed well out of the court, Van Emburgh flung his racket into the air and screamed while his teammates swarmed him in celebration.

Buckeyes beat Southern California, advance to the NCAA quarterfinals 

Van Emburgh's 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 4 singles sealed the 4-2 win for No. 4 Ohio State (27-3) over No. 13 Southern California (24-6), advancing the Buckeyes to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2018. 

"I came here to win," said Van Emburgh, who transferred from Oklahoma last summer. "I saw us not playing again, not taking the warmup court, not going to get ice cream, rides in the vans. I saw that stuff slowly fading away as I was going down.

"... My dad used to tell me back in the day (to) weather the storm. That was our one thing, just weather the storm, get through it. Storms don't last forever. I did what he told me to do, and here we are."

Ohio State began the match with a 1-0 lead after capturing the doubles point and quickly made it 2-0 with a 6-4, 6-1 win by Justin Boulais at No. 6 singles over Ryder Jackson. The Trojans got on the board moments later with a win by Lodewijk Weststrate at No. 5 singles over James Trotter. 

The other four matches all went to a third set, setting up a dramatic finish. For Ohio State coach Ty Tucker, the match turned when Kingsley, who is ranked ninth in the country, knocked off No. 7 Stefan Dostanic, who was previously undefeated in dual matches.

Dostanic took the first set 6-3, but Kingsley came back to win the second set 6-3 and overcame multiple possible break points in the third set to win it 6-2. 

"That was a match we weren't sure about," Tucker said. "That's two guys out there playing professional tennis, and you're not sure what's gonna happen with those guys. (Kingsley) staved off four break points in a row and kind of put a dent in the other guy."

After Matej Vogel lost at No. 2 singles, the Buckeyes led 3-2 with both Van Emburgh and JJ Tracy still playing. Nearly all of the attention turned to Van Emburgh as he mounted his comeback — pressure Tucker said Van Emburgh welcomes. 

Colby saved one match point, but he couldn't hold off Van Emburgh any longer after that. 

"Jake did a good job these last two games pulling through for us," Tucker said. "... We had to win. We talked about it. It almost felt like it was a fireable offense, like I might not have a job if we don't get to the Elite Eight, getting a chance to play USC at home.

"When you get these opportunities, you have to take advantage of them, especially schools from the north. It's an unbelievable feeling right now, but tomorrow we start over again."

Ohio State now faces Michigan in a quarterfinal matchup beginning Thursday.

bjohnson@dispatch.com

@baileyajohnson_