Around the Oval on Wednesday, February 26th

By John Brandon on February 26, 2014 at 4:15p
23 Comments

What a week it was for Buckeye sports - two lady Buckeye swimmers set school records and the women's basketball team sent out their seniors with a convincing win. Meanwhile, the wrestling and baseball teams both went undefeated on the week, each posting wins over ranked opponents.

It was undoubtedly a great week for those teams, but this week I'd like to spend some time examining the historic run by the men's tennis team. After knocking off No. 6 Notre Dame (4-2) and No. 61 Indiana (5-2) on the road this week, the Buckeyes improved to 15-0 on the season - the best start in program history. The win over Notre Dame was Ohio State's seventh over top-25 opponents this season, as the Buckeyes were able to hold onto their national No. 1 team ranking this week. Things won't get any easier, as the Buckeyes upcoming schedule consists of No. 12 North Carolina (home), No. 34 Penn State (home), No. 3 Oklahoma (away), No. 35 Georgia (away) and No. 26 Michigan (home).

Still, if Ohio State's success at home and in Big Ten play under head coach Ty Tucker is any indication, the No. 1 ranking should hold up for a while. The Buckeyes have won an astonishing 181-straight home matches (and an incredible 83 in a row vs. Big Ten teams at home and on the road). Ohio State also hasn't lost a Big Ten match since 2005, which is especially impressive when you consider the fact that four Big Ten teams are in the top-26 and 10 Big Ten teams are in the top 55 nationally this season. Point is, the Big Ten is a strong tennis conference, yet the Buckeyes have been untouchable for eight years.

"I sure hope that any Ohio State fans will enjoy the fact that we do something other than play football and basketball at Ohio State... The excitement surrounding home games here is pretty amazing."

- Ty Tucker, Men's Tennis Head Coach

Most of the Buckeyes success can be attributed to the phenomenal job that Tucker has done at Ohio State, turning the program from historically bad into one of the nation's elite in a short amount of time. Since being hired before the 2000 season, Tucker is 360-58 overall and 120-11 in Big Ten play. Perhaps more impressively, the tennis program has steadily improved each year. 

Success is nothing new to Ty Tucker, who has dominated tennis at every level he's competed in. As a kid, Tucker won nine USTA National Junior titles, and at one time defeated tennis legend Andre Agassi - his roommate at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. Tucker's success continued into his high school career at Zanesville high school, where he became the only student-athlete to win a Ohio High School state championship as a freshman in 1985.

Tucker futhered his career at Ohio State, where he earned the team's No. 1 singles spot as a freshman and was a two-time All-American. After his junior year, Tucker tested the professional waters where he was ranked as high as No. 35 in the United States.

Tucker returned to the Ohio State program in 1998 as an assistant coach. The program was struggling, and within two years Tucker was named head coach.

Prior to Tucker's hiring, the Buckeyes had lost 24 consecutive Big Ten matches and were the laughing stock of the conference. Guess who's laughing now? Ty Tucker.

After finishing fourth in 2000, Tucker led the Buckeyes to a second place regular-season finish and a Big Ten tournament championship in 2001 - quite the turnaround I would say. Tucker followed that up with four consecutive second-place finishes from 2002-2005, and has won the conference every season since.

The cornerstone of Tucker's success, he believes, has been keeping the top talent in Ohio - sound familiar?

"I knew I had to build a fence around Ohio," Tucker told the Columbus Dispatch last spring. In fact, five of the Buckeyes' 10 players hail from the state, including top singles player Peter Kobelt.

Kobelt has been at the forefront of Ohio State's success this year, and this week he was recognized as the Big Ten's Athlete of the Week for the second consecutive time. He has been magical this season, but while tennis is generally thought of as an individual sport, the Buckeyes' success has been a total team effort.

Tucker's former players believe the success can be attributed to Tucker's passion, intensity and competitive nature. "His drive and passion are far beyond any coach I've come in contact with, and I wouldn't tell you that if it wasn't true," said former player Chase Buchanon.

The Big Ten success has been impressive, but under Tucker the Buckeyes have transformed into one of the best programs in the nation, reaching tennis' equivalent of the "Elite 8" eight years in a row, including three trips to the national semi-finals and one national-runners up finish.

Nine days ago, Tucker's bunch broke through and captured their first national championship at the ITA Indoors. 

"To be able to win with a group of guys, with three boys from Ohio is pretty nice," Tucker said. "It (Winning the ITA Championships) was nice, but you need to keep focusing on the big goals which are Big Ten championships and to compete for an NCAA outdoor championship at the end of the season."

- Ty Tucker

For the Buckeyes, the goal this year is simple - continue their Big Ten dominance and finally bring home an NCAA Outdoor Championship. The road won't be easy, but for Ty Tucker and his team, the time is now.

23 Comments

Comments

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Sweet Jesus those are some impressive stats.

I'm ashamed to say I didn't know the Juggernaut that is Ohio State Men's Tennis.  I knew they were respectable and won the ITA indoor but I was woefully uninformed of the soul crushing monster that lay in my midst.  Go Bucks!  Wow!

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

+3 HS
John Brandon's picture

I know how you feel man! I have followed the program for a little while so I was aware of their recent success, but even still I was blown away by some of these streaks. I knew about the home winning streak but going undefeated in the Big Ten for 8 years is absolutely ridiculous.

MrChengsaw's picture

Thrilled to see Tucker and his program finally getting some much deserved recognition.  He's quietly developed one of the most dominant programs in NCAA history.  OSU is lucky to keep him, gawd knows those traditional tennis powerhouses would love to have him.

+1 HS
John Brandon's picture

I agree 100%. I think he'll be at Ohio State for a long, long time because: 1.) he's a former Buckeye and he's from Zanesville, and 2.) he just oozes passion for Ohio State and bringing the program to an elite level. He's built the program to an elite level where it would pretty much be a lateral move if he went anywhere else and he wouldn't do that in my opinion.

RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

Wow! That is an amazing streak!

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Back in the day Stanford used to win the NC year after year.  This just blows my mind away.  I love buckeye football and basketball, but my first love is tennis, many people don't understand the skill and athleticism required to do well.  Ripping the ball from the baseline, punching the ball up at the net, lobs, drop shots, overheads, dealing with placement, power, off speed, underspin, flat or topspin, the footwork and hand-to-eye coordination of these guys are unreal.  I go to the Cincy ATP tournament every year and watch the Federer's, Nadal's and Djokovic's of the world, but I need to attend some of the buckeye men's matches and watch one of the best teams (THE best, sorry) and it's a lot closer and a lot less expensive than a professional tournament.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

+6 HS
ibuck's picture

the phenomenal job that Tucker has done at Ohio State, turning the program from historically bad into one of the nation's elite in a short amount of time. . . . the success can be attributed to Tucker's passion, intensity and competitive nature. "His drive and passion are far beyond any coach I've come in contact with." . . . under Tucker the Buckeyes have transformed into one of the best programs in the nation, reaching tennis' equivalent of the "Elite 8" eight years in a row, including three trips to the national semi-finals and one national-runners up finish.

Great write-up: I think every OSU coach, including Urban & Thad, should check out what Ty is doing, and how.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

+3 HS
kmp10's picture

Like ScarletNGrey01, I too love the game of tennis. I played organized football and tennis in school, and while football is my first love, tennis is a very close second. I grew up in the 1970's and for those of you too young to remember that decade, or for those who missed it entirely, tennis was ENORMOUSLY popular back then. I vividly remember playing tennis on the outdoor courts at west campus (yes, between Kenny Rd and the east parking lot at the far south end of west campus were tennis courts) and having to wait hours to get your turn. In the evening during the summers there were crowds waiting and watching the matches. It was an electric atmosphere. So much fun. I don't think people who missed that time period can fully understand how popular tennis was. Americans were prominent in the world rankings in the 70's and early 80's with names like Connors, McEnroe, Ashe and Gerulaitis. These guys all had personality, and watching majors in the 70's/80's was like watching a war. American tennis was huge at that time and I cannot believe how far it has fallen in the 40 years since. There was somewhat of a resurgence in the 90's with Agassi, Sampras, Courier and Chang, but tennis in America is a shadow of its once mighty self… sad really.

Thanks for the article and for turning me onto something I should have been following and enjoying for years now.

+3 HS
osugreg04's picture

My brother was on the team when Ty was an assistant in the late 90's under Daly. They were last in the B1G in tennis (first in drinking!) Ty literally took them from worst to first. Good for them!

+3 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

The Elite Eight 8 yrs in a row?!!! With all those amazing streaks and stats, THAT might be the most incredible of all. Now that's consistency!
 

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

bucks_lax_14's picture

I've been covering the team this season for the Lantern and they are an absolute pleasure to be around. Coach Tucker, Kobelt and every other player is so humble. The only thing I keep hearing is how they want more fans in the stands, so everyone come out! How often do you get to watch the best team in the nation and do so for free?

+1 HS
John Brandon's picture

Absolutely, I'll be making an effort to get to more games, starting with tomorrow's match against UNC. I believe they play at 6 at the indoor courts.

Whoa Nellie's picture

Where do they play, and can anyone post a schedule?

Another 70's era tennis player here KMP.  Played college tennis, and still remember those days fondly.

“Don’t fear criticism. The stands are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down on the field are the doers, they make mistakes because they attempt many things.”

+1 HS
Whoa Nellie's picture

Thank you.  How can you determine whether a match is indoors or outdoors?

“Don’t fear criticism. The stands are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down on the field are the doers, they make mistakes because they attempt many things.”

Seattle Linga's picture

Former Collegiate Tennis player here - I got hooked on Buckeye Tennis 10 or so years ago listening on a Sunday morning, on a drive from Toledo to Cleveland and how the team had so much talent and promise. Been following ever since than and always will. So proud of the talent we get year after year.  

+2 HS
Go1Bucks's picture

I remember comments Agassi made during an interview a few years ago about how good Ty really was when playing  at the tennis academy.  We should count ourselves lucky to have the UFM of tennis at OSU.

Congrats Racket Bucks!

Go Bucks!

+1 HS
ScarletGray43157's picture

A Zanesville native, just like Fred Taylor.  (Mark Dantonio is a Zanesville native as well).  

If I recall correctly, Ty had a brother who was also a fair tennis player.  I wish him and the Tennis Buckeyes much continued success. 

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

Poison nuts's picture

I love to play tennis & love the Buckeyes so...Go Bucks. Had no idea OSU was this dominant in Tennis. Knew they were a power, but damn!!!

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

Buckabroad's picture

Thanks for the article! We are blessed to have the best coaches in the land in all sports! The OSU tennis team has been, and will continue, dominating college tennis for a long time.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

OhioT's picture

Great to see this on 11W!! The last decade plus has been fantastic work by a great coaching staff and tremendous groups of guys. Looks like this season is shaping up to be special, keep it up fellas!!!

Dad, what's a "Loss"?
I don't know son, we're Buckeye fans.

+1 HS
Jpfbuck's picture

I too used to play tennis mostly in the late 70's into the early 80's and loved the Conners and McEnroe era.

Congrats and continued success to the Tennis Bucks

SaltyD0gg's picture

Not to mention that the OSU men's gymnastics team is ranked 4th in the nation and just had one of their own, Sean Melton, named to the US Men's National team. The non-revenue generating sports are killing it.

I was at an OSU women's gymnastics meet a few weeks back and none other than Gene Smith came and sat down beside me to take in the action. Was so good to see him out supporting the small sports.

Pain of Discipline
Pain of Regret
Take Your Pick