Andrew Lutschaunig helps Ohio State Buckeyes clinch NCAA tennis win over Michigan

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch
Andrew Lutschaunig clinched a quarterfinal win over Michigan to send No. 4 Ohio State into Saturday's semifinal against No. 8 Kentucky.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Andrew Lutschaunig's older brother had never seen him play a college tennis match in person until Thursday night.

For a while, it looked like it would be a brief, unpleasant appearance.

Lutschaunig and Justin Boulais lost 6-2 in their doubles set to Michigan in the NCAA men's quarterfinals, with Lutschaunig taking most of the blame. He didn't believe coach Ty Tucker would give him a chance for redemption in the singles.

But Tucker put Lutschaunig at No. 6 singles. His hunch paid off.

Lutchaunig clinched the fourth-seeded Buckeyes' 4-2 victory with a 7-6, 6-4 win to send Ohio State into Saturday's 11 a.m. semifinal against No. 8 Kentucky.

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Sealing an NCAA victory over archrival Michigan is special enough. Having his brother there made it feel like a dream. Christian Lutschaunig played for Penn State from 2014-17.

“He's definitely my role model,” Andrew said. “He's probably the reason I picked up a tennis racket to begin with because I just wanted to do whatever he did.”

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Christian has a busy job in the Philadelphia area, so he hadn't had the chance to travel to watch his younger brother play until Thursday when he came with their dad, Marty. Christian even wore an OSU hat and shirt for the occasion.

“Don't tell anybody that,” he said with a laugh.

Lutschaunig staved off three set points before winning the first-set tiebreaker 11-9 against Nick Beaty.

Andrew Lutchaunig clinched a quarterfinal win over Michigan to send No. 4 Ohio State into Saturday's semifinal against No. 8 Kentucky.

“It's definitely worse being on the sideline watching (than playing), but he always looked calm,” Christian said. “He was cool and collected. He always had to look in his eye that he was going to win.”

Lutschaunig was able to clinch the victory because the Buckeyes rallied after losing the doubles point to dominate singles. Not even a storm that caused a delay and forced the match to be moved inside could stall their momentum.

“We got beat in that doubles point and then the guys got started," Tucker said. "We were running them out of the gym, and then all of a sudden we get a lightning strike, and we get put indoors. We didn't want to be indoors. We wanted to be outside."

Tucker faced another challenge after the move. The scoreboard didn't work, so it was almost impossible to know which court he should be at to dispense advice.

"But our guys stood strong," Tucker said.

JJ Tracy defeated Andrew Fenty 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 singles to even the match. Justin Boulais at No. 5 rolled over Nino Enrenschneider 6-2, 6-3 just before Cannon Kingsley closed out his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Ondrej Styler at No. 1.

In the Big Ten championship, Styler had rallied for a three-set victory over Kingsley that clinched the Wolverines' victory.

Michigan stayed in the match with a victory at No. 4 by Jacob Bickersteth over Jake Van Emburgh 6-3, 6-3.

That left it up to Matej Vocel at No. 2 and Lutschaunig at No. 6, each of whom got an early service break in the third set.

Lutschaunig finished first, flinging his racket on match point before being mobbed by his teammates. Then came congratulations from his brother.

“Everybody who knows me knows that he's like my favorite person in the world,” Andrew said. “He always watches online, but for this to be the first one he was able to come to is indescribable. I can't even write a better story than this for myself.”

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Ohio State (28-3) stewed over the loss in the Big Ten tournament finals. Thursday's victory was sweet redemption.

“We have a lot of respect for that team,” Lutschaunig said. “I think they have a really good culture, and they've done great things this year. But I just think we were a little more hungry than them today."

The Buckeyes are two victories away from an NCAA championship that is the only void on Tucker's coaching resume. Ohio State was the only higher seed to win on Thursday.

Kentucky upset No. 1 TCU 4-3, No. 6 Tennessee beat No. 3 Baylor 4-3, and No. 7 Virginia beat No. 2 and defending champion Florida 4-1.

Ohio State beat Kentucky 4-0 at the Ty Tucker Tennis Center in February.

“At home, it's a lot different than on the road or a neutral site,” Tracy said. “They had a great win against TCU, so we've got our work cut out for us.”

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at brabinowitz@dispatch.com or on Twitter @brdispatch.