'Everything we all dreamed of.' OSU men's tennis team gets NCAA rematch with Michigan
For most of Ty Tucker’s tenure as Ohio State’s men’s tennis coach, Michigan was a rival in name only.
The Buckeyes won 28 straight matches against the Wolverines until Michigan ended the streak last year.
This year, Ohio State (27-3) has lost two of three matches against the Wolverines (25-3), including a 4-2 loss in the Big Ten tournament finals in Madison, Wisconsin.
That all makes Thursday night’s NCAA quarterfinal match against Michigan in Champaign, Illinois, even more compelling.
“It’s everything that we all dreamed of,” sophomore JJ Tracy said. “We're 1-2 against Michigan this year. The only win was at home (in a non-conference match). We go back to see them on a neutral site. I think everybody's minds are on evening the series at 2-2, and it'll be that much more special that it's in the NCAA quarterfinals.”
Michigan won almost all the big points in the Big Ten finals match, Tucker said.
“They've got a darn good team, but we had chances in the last match,” he said. “It just wasn't our day.”
The Buckeyes are the fourth seed. Michigan is fifth. Michigan has steadily risen in the rankings since it lost to Wake Forest in January. The Wolverines were without their top player, Ondrej Styler, in that match.
Since then, Michigan has defeated No. 1 TCU and No. 3 Baylor in addition to the Buckeyes.
“Michigan's for real,” Tucker said.
Just as the Wolverines’ football victory over Ohio State in November has added extra spice to the rivalry, Michigan’s rise in tennis has done the same on the courts.
“Oh, it's definitely the same,” Tracy said. “We all watch football and kind of try to carry it over to tennis. It's just as nasty.”
The Buckeyes had their sights set on a rematch as soon as the NCAA bracket was released.
“It's always motivating to play against them,” said junior Cannon Kingsley, OSU’s No. 1 singles player. “We know each other pretty well and know what to expect. It'll be a really tough match for both teams, and we're obviously going to come back with a lot of fire.”
Ohio State has a history in Champaign with NCAA tournaments. In 2013, Buckeyes lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to UCLA in the semifinals.
The match will be the fourth and final one on Thursday.
“If I’m an outsider and I’m looking at the four Elite 8 matches that will be played, I know which one I’d buy a ticket to – that Ohio State-Michigan match,” Tucker said.
The winner of Thursday’s match will play on Saturday against the victor between top-seeded TCU and No. 8 Kentucky. Ohio State, then ranked No. 1, lost to TCU 4-3 in the ITA Indoor Championship semifinals.
The team championship match is Sunday, followed by the start of the men’s and women’s singles and doubles competitions on Monday. Four Buckeye men – Kingsley, Tracy, Matej Vocel and James Trotter – are in the singles bracket. In doubles, Vocel and Robert Cash are the No. 2 seed while Trotter will team with Justin Boulais.
In the women’s singles tournament, Irina Cantos Siemers and Isabelle Boulais will represent OSU. Cantos Siemers will team with Sydni Ratliff in doubles. The Buckeyes’ women's team lost in the second round of the NCAA team tournament to Vanderbilt.