Men’s tennis to face No. 2 Ohio State

BY SETH ROBERTS | APRIL 02, 2010 7:30 AM

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History often repeats itself. But the Iowa men’s tennis team is seeking to break the rule today.

No. 73 Iowa (9-4, 1-1 Big Ten) will face No. 2 Ohio State (18-1, 2-0) at 2 p.m. at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center. Though the Buckeyes have won 11-consecutive matches against the Hawkeyes, Iowa is eyeing a “W”.

Ohio State has been nationally ranked at the end of every season since 2000, and it has finished with a top-five ranking every year since 2006. The Buckeyes are riding a 102-meet regular-season winning streak, and their only loss this year was a 4-2 setback to No. 1 Virginia in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championship on Feb. 14.

“They’ve been the dominant team in the Big Ten for several years,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “They’re not especially big and powerful, but they’re very solid players. They value every shot and make teams beat them. They don’t beat themselves.”

Iowa has not defeated Ohio State since 1999, a year in which the Buckeyes were winless in conference play. The squad hired former All-American Ty Tucker as head coach following that season and have since gone 275-50 (106-16 in Big Ten play).

Tucker’s teams have not lost a conference meet since 2005.

“I remember [Tucker] as a player, and I think he coaches the same way he played,” Houghton said. “He’s very strong, competitive, and intense. He’s a good motivator, and I think he’s pretty selective in his recruiting. He likes players who are self-motivated and have a lot of growth ahead of them.”

Ohio State has five singles players ranked in the Top 125, led by sophomore Chase Buchanan at No. 12. Buchanan will likely face Iowa sophomore Marc Bruche — No. 15 in the Central Region — in the No. 1 slot.

“He’s a very good player,” Bruche said. “He’s very aggressive, but so am I. If I can hold my serves, it should be a close match. I’ll be the underdog, but I have nothing to lose.”

The Buckeyes also feature No. 36 Justin Krounage, a 2008 All-American on a 10-match winning streak; No. 88 Dino Marcan, a freshman with a .750 winning percentage against ranked opponents; No. 117 Shuhei Uzawa, a junior with 10 wins this season; and No. 122 Steven Williams, who surged into the rankings by winning four-consecutive matches.

Ohio State’s only unranked player, junior Balazs Novak, is 7-1 in the No. 4 slot and 14-3 overall this year.

Doubles will likely be vital for the Hawkeyes, because the Buckeyes are 16-0 this season when they win the doubles point. Their No. 1 pairing of Buchanan and Marcan is ranked No. 34 and boasts a 6-1 record, leading Ohio State to a 43-11 record in doubles matches this season. The team has been particularly dangerous in the No. 3 position, where a variety of duos have combined for an .895 winning percentage.

While he is unsure of who he will be facing in No. 3 doubles, Iowa freshman Garret Dunn said he and teammate Nikita Zotov aren’t worried about the Buckeye mystique.

“We just go out and play,” Dunn said. “Rankings don’t mean a whole lot when you’re on the court.”

The meet is Iowa’s conference home-opener and marks the first time since a victory against DePaul on Feb. 28 that the Hawkeyes have played in Iowa City. The team has gone 3-3 with a no contest in its seven matches away from the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center, dropping only one point on the way to a 3-0 record.

Bruche said it would be good to be home after being away for so long.

“It was really exhausting,” the sophomore said. “We were all tired of traveling and playing on other courts with tough fans. It’ll be good to grind it out on our home court, especially against one of the best teams in the country.”

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