April 27, 2009

Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Down 1-0 after dropping the doubles point, the No. 1-seed Ohio State men’s tennis team showed its firepower, winning four-consecutive singles matches to claim its fourth-consecutive tournament title with a 4-1 victory against No. 2-seed Illinois Sunday at the 2009 Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Sophomore Balazs Novak claimed the clinching point for Ohio State at No. 5 singles with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Illini Abe Souza. Novak, a native of Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, is now 34-5 in singles after going a perfect 10-0 in Big Ten play this season.

“It was really windy out there, but I was able to break the second set to 5-4 and held on for the win,” Novak said. “It was an amazing feeling, winning the match with all of my teammates rushing the court chanting O-H-I-O. This is definitely a moment I will never forget.”

The championship match will be televised by the Big Ten Network on a tape delay on Sunday, May 3 at 6 p.m.

Under head coach Ty Tucker, Ohio State (31-1; 10-0 Big Ten) has won five of 10 Big Ten tournament titles since he took charge of the program during the 1999-2000 campaign. The Buckeyes improve their conference win streak to 53-consecutive matches with the championship win and are currently 104-5 in its last 109 league matches, including postseason play.

"It's nice to do it again," Tucker said. "Doubles was the tricky part today but our guys went out in singles for the 4-1 match win. I told the guys we had to go out and get that first singles point and we did just that."

Ohio State, ranked third in the nation, is now 32-54-1 against No. 14 Illinois (21-8; 8-2 Big Ten). However under Tucker, the Buckeyes have won five-consecutive matches against the Illini, winning nine of the last 10 meetings. Ohio State’s four-consecutive tournament titles have all been claimed in the tournament final against Illinois.

In doubles, Illinois won at Nos. 1 and 2 to claim the first point of the championship match after the Buckeyes won the first match at No. 3 doubles. Bryan Koniecko and Shuhei Uzawa defeated Roy Kalmanovich and Meedo El Tabakh, 8-4, improving their record to a team-high 19-1 overall with a 12-match win streak.

At No. 2 doubles, sophomore Matt Allare and rookie Chase Buchanan dropped an 8-6 decision to Marek Czerwinski and Marc Spicijaric. llinois got the early 1-0 advantage after No. 24 Dennis Nevolo and Ruan Roelofse took down No. 17 Justin Kronauge and Steven Moneke, 8-6, at No. 1 doubles. The loss snaps the Buckeye duo win-streak at eight.

In singles, Buchanan evened the tides to 1-all after defeating Brian Livingston, 6-1, 6-2, at No. 6 singles. Buchanan is now 9-3 overall, winning eight-consecutive matches since joining the team in late March.

No. 25 Kronauge, a 2009 All-Big Ten honoree, gave Ohio State its first lead of the day with a 6-3, 6-2, victory against No. 50 Kalmanovich at No. 2 singles. Kronauge is 35-7 overall with an 8-3 record at No. 2 singles.

Following Kronauge’s win was the 2009 Big Ten Athlete of the Year, Koniecko at No. 1 singles. Koneicko, currently ranked third in the nation, defeated No. 75 Spicijaric, 6-3, 6-4, putting Ohio State just one singles win away from the title. Koniecko is 35-4 overall with an impressive 20-3 record at the top of the singles lineup. Koniecko, a two-time All-American, passed former Buckeye Roger Smith (1983-86) for third on the all-time career singles wins list with 127 career wins in his four years with the Buckeyes.

The 2009 senior class now has four Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles since the 2005-06 campaign. Senior tri-captains Ty Schaub, Moneke and Koniecko have won more matches than any other class in their four-year career with a total record of 124-7 (.947).

“Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t think sweeping four-consecutive titles would be possible, but I learned every year from the seniors that it could happen,” Koniecko said. “Now after today, I just hope to pass it down to the younger guys to keep the streak alive. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Ohio State, who has won 23-consecutive matches this season, will now prepare for the 2009 NCAA Championships, beginning its quest for a national title as host to the first and second rounds of the tournament at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. May 8 and noon May 9 at the Stickney Tennis Center in Columbus.