After the club basketball team won the national championship last weekend, it was only right that another club team at Ohio State would follow suit, and the club tennis team was the one to keep the domination going as they knocked off North Carolina to win the first national championship in program history.
What a night! Congrats to the National Champion Ohio State #TennisOnCampus team!
— USTA (@usta) April 15, 2018
Ohio State had a long road to the finals in Orlando. They finished third in the USTA Midwest sectional tournament and had never placed better than 18th at the National Championship, but that obviously didn't stop them as they knocked the Tar Heels out. For North Carolina, this is the third "stinging defeat" in a row, as they were knocked out in the semifinals last year and the finals two years ago.
Freshman Noah Stern and mixed doubles partner Natasha Birze closed out the match in style, with Stern slamming home the winning point to clinch the championship for Ohio State.
"I knew that I was in the lineup before the match- I knew that I was going to be playing mixed doubles so I knew I would be the last match," Stern said. "So all along there was potential for me to be the last person to hit. For it to actually happen like that was surreal. I was kind of smiling the whole time it was going on because i knew it was going to be over right then and there."
Ohio State had to defeat six teams in order to reach the finals. They had pool victories over Colorado School of Mines, Columbia University and San Diego State, as well as the University of Washington in St. Louis in the first round of the gold bracket and defeated rival Illinois in the quarterfinals. Finally, the Buckeyes beat UC San Diego to punch their ticket in the finals.
"It was very challenging. We didn't think we were going to win, which doesn't happen a lot. Teams usually think they can do it. We got third in regionals but I don't think any of us believed were gonna win this thing. The final was actually ironically a little easier of a match than the semis and the quarters. Both of those were very tough. It was quite an achievement to win all 7 matches against a great team, Stern said."
Stern is unique in that he also won three state championships as a member of the Sycamore High School varsity tennis team. But how exactly does this compare?
"I have thought about that a little bit. I would say that the satisfaction and the pure joy that I got from the three state title victories versus this national title were very similar. I think it was a little different in the sense that you know it was a whole new world for me- club tennis that is. Obviously some of the things are very different because at the state level, all the teams that you face in the last 3-4 matches are really good. In club tennis, there's some incredible teams and there's some that its solely just for fun versus in high school where everyone is very competitive. Those respective achievements were pretty equal," Stern said.