Buckeyes trend homeward
Also: Hot starts, hot matchups highlight upcoming action
Playing at home is supposed to give teams an edge. It is a familiar environment, it doesn’t take hours to travel to competition and home-team fans are there to cheer.
But the Ohio State men’s tennis team has taken home-court advantage to a whole new level. This weekend, the Buckeyes will mark the 10th anniversary of when their 163-match home winning streak began as they seek two more home victories against Wisconsin on Friday and Minnesota on Sunday at the Varsity Tennis Center in Columbus, Ohio.
Ohio State’s home winning streak began on April 6, 2003, with a 5-2 victory against Purdue. They own the longest active home winning streak in all of Division I sports, followed by the Florida women’s tennis team, which boasts a stretch of 117 wins in home matches.
“I would have to say we’ve had great players,” Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker said. “Not even I can mess it up … you’re never going to have that kind of success without great players.”
Tucker also credits consistency in the coaching staff. He is in his 16th season at the school, has been at the helm of the program since 1999, and his staff has been in place for almost as long.
To put the streak into perspective, players on the current roster were in elementary school and Americans were paying just $1.67 per gallon for gasoline. In other words, it’s been a long time. And, the streak has included a plethora of tough foes and postseason matches. The Buckeyes have played host to the NCAA regionals seven times during the stretch, compiling a 14-0 mark. They also have knocked off several ranked teams throughout the streak, including No. 3 Georgia earlier this season.
“The thing about the streak is it’s been done indoors and outdoors,” Tucker said. “When you get to outdoor play in Ohio in March and April, you’re facing 20 mile per hour winds and all kinds of things. By no means has it been easy.”
The fifth-ranked Buckeyes enter the weekend with a 21-2 record and 5-0 mark in Big Ten play. Tucker said the team’s strength at doubles gives the Buckeyes an edge against their opponents. Last year, former Buckeye Chase Buchanan (2009-12) and Blaz Rola (2011-present) teamed up to win the 2012 NCAA doubles championship, becoming the first tennis Buckeyes to win a national title. The duo also became the first tandem to win all three major collegiate championships in one season -- ITA All-American Championships, USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships and NCAA championships. This year, Rola has paired with Kevin Metka, and the duo has put together a 13-0 record.
“We’ve won 22 of 23 doubles points,” Tucker said. “Knock on wood, our doubles has been pretty solid. It’s a huge point to win. To be able to take care of the doubles point like we’ve done, it takes a lot of pressure off the team [in singles].”
After downing No. 8 Kentucky on the road Wednesday (click here to read more), the Buckeyes are 13-2 against ranked opponents, including a 7-2 record against Top 25 programs.
• The top two teams in Division I women’s lacrosse will collide at noon ET Saturday when No. 1 Maryland plays host to No. 2 North Carolina in Atlantic Coast Conference action. The Terrapins (13-0) have outscored opponents 208-104, and are paced by senior Alex Aust’s 43 goals and 38 assists. They have defeated the Tar Heels in three consecutive ACC title-game appearances and lead the all-time series 19-11. Since dropping the season-opener to Florida, North Carolina has reeled off 11 consecutive victories. UNC is one win shy of matching its school-record winning streak set in 2002.
• It should be an exciting weekend for men’s gymnastics as the Big Ten Championships take place on Friday and Saturday at the University of Minnesota. Seven teams in the field are ranked in the top 10 nationally, including No. 1 Penn State, No. 3 Michigan and No. 5 Ohio State. No. 6 Illinois is the defending league champion. The Nittany Lions are looking to claim their first title since 2008, while Michigan looks to capture their first since 2009. The Big Ten Network will air the competition live each night at 8 p.m. ET.
• Two of the top baseball programs in the SEC and the nation will square off this weekend in Baton Rouge, La., as No. 2 LSU plays host to No. 10 Kentucky for a three-game series. LSU is riding a nine-game winning streak and is tied with Vanderbilt for first place in the SEC standings at 8-1. The Tigers are 27-2 -- matching the best start in program history. First baseman Mason Katz tops the nation with 1.75 RBIs per game, while shortstop Alex Bregman is enjoying a 17-game winning streak and batting .619 in his past nine contests.
Kentucky’s pitching, however, will pose a challenge for the Tigers. The all-lefty rotation of A.J. Reed (2-3, 2.57 ERA), Jerad Grundy (5-2, 2.15 ERA) and Corey Littrell (4-0, 2.17 ERA) has been solid, while closer Trevor Gott has recorded seven saves in eight chances along with a 4-0 record and 1.06 ERA.
The Wildcats will look to win their fourth consecutive SEC series following 5-4, extra-inning victory against No. 14 Louisville in a non-conference tilt Tuesday.
• Defending DI softball champion Alabama will host SEC newcomer Missouri for a top-10 matchup between two of the hottest teams in the nation. The No. 4 Crimson Tide ranks in the top 20 in the national statistics in both batting average (.325) and ERA (1.77), and is scoring 6.97 runs per game (ninth). Meanwhile, the No. 7 Tigers will counter with a .333 batting average (10th) and 1.37 ERA (third), and are scoring 7.64 runs per game (second). Alabama enters the weekend sitting one game behind LSU in the SEC Western Division standings, while Missouri tops the Eastern Division with a 7-1 mark. Two of the three games in the series will be televised on ESPNU -- 9 p.m. ET Friday and 3 p.m. ET Saturday.
• The No. 13 Penn State men’s lacrosse team looks to extend its five-game winning streak when the Nittany Lions play host to No. 12 Drexel on Saturday in a key Colonial Athletic Association matchup. The Dragons are riding a four-game winning streak into the contest, and both squads are unbeaten in league play. Goalkeeper Austin Kaut has led the charge for Penn State, anchoring the Nittany Lions with the fourth-best scoring defense in the nation at 7.30 goals per game. PSU has not allowed more than seven goals since losing to Lehigh 12-10 on March 9. Drexel will counter with an offense that is scoring 12.50 goals per game -- good for ninth in the nation.
• Highlighting the weekend in track and field, Oregon will play host to the Pepsi Team Invitational at Historic Heyward Field on Saturday, and the competition is sure to be tough. Three of the top 15 women’s teams and two of the top four men’s program’s in the USTFCCCA national team computer rankings will be in the mix. On the women’s side, No. 2 Oregon will play host to No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 15 Washington and Washington State. The Ducks are the four-time defending indoor champions and the top-ranked team in the latest Track & Field News dual meet rankings. Headlining the men’s field will be No. 1 Texas A&M and No. 4 Oregon, along with Washington and Washington State.
• The No. 2 Long Beach State men’s volleyball team heads out on the road this weekend to take on USC on Thursday and No. 5 Pepperdine on Saturday as the 49ers (19-7) look to secure home-court advantage in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs. Long Beach State, which already has earned a berth in the MPSF tournament, also is seeking its first 20-win campaign since posting a 23-7 mark in 2008.
• The Indianapolis softball team rose to the No. 1 spot in the NFCA Division II Top 25 for the first time in program history this week. It is the first time any UIndy athletics team was ranked No. 1 since the Greyhounds' men's basketball squad held the top spot on Jan. 28, 1997. The Greyhounds have won 23 consecutive games, and are perfect in Great Lakes Valley Conference play with a 12-0 mark. UIndy swept a doubleheader against defending Midwest Region champion Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday, and is back in action at Kentucky Wesleyan on Saturday.
• The No. 2 Dickinson men’s lacrosse team is setting records with every victory. The Red Devils are off to their best start with nine consecutive victories, and will look to improve on the mark against Haverford on Saturday in a meeting between Division III’s Centennial Conference squads.
• The No. 2 Adelphi men’s lacrosse team has matched its best start with a 6-0 record, tying the 1967 squad, which also was unbeaten through six games. The Panthers rank third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 6.00 goals per game, while goalie Eric Janssen tops the nation with a .711 save percentage. Adelphi faces a tough test on Saturday as it plays host to No. 5 Le Moyne for a Northeast-10 Conference contest. Offense may be hard to come by in this one as the Dolphins lead the nation with 4.22 goals allowed per game.
• USC women’s golfer Sophia Popov claimed her school-record-tying fifth career individual title to help the top-ranked Trojans win the SDSU Farms Invitational Tuesday (click here to read more). It was the Trojans’ third consecutive team title. The most recent time the Trojans won three or more tournaments in a row was 2008 when they concluded the season with four victories, capped by the NCAA title. Popov shot a 1-over-par 217 to earn her first title of the year. She won three titles as a freshman and one as sophomore.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy