HOUSTON -- Ohio State captured its first ITA National Team Indoor Championship title with an impressive performance on Monday for a 4-1 win against third-ranked Southern California. Guided by director of tennis and head coach Ty Tucker, the fifth-ranked Buckeyes defeated four top-25 teams, including two top-five programs en route to the national title and are now 13-0 overall in 2014 to put Ohio State at its best start to a season in program history.
“We were able to set the tone early on and [Ralf] Steinbach and [Chris] Diaz fought back with five straight points in doubles to get it started,” Tucker said. “We rode [Kevin] Metka and [Peter] Kobelt hard at No. 1 all weekend and they were able to win all of their matches for us. When you beat two teams back-to-back that have been dominating college tennis the last five years, it’s a great accomplishment. Everyone is playing for the team and the only thing that matters to these guys is that Ohio State wins.”
The Scarlet and Gray captured the doubles point and three of the four completed singles matches to defeat the Trojans, whose last loss was to Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the NCAA team championships last May.
"The doubles point was huge today," Kobelt said. “We didn't get the first point against Virginia [on Sunday] and we are a much better team when we win in doubles. I know I had to play at my best for us to win vs. USC. This trophy we are bringing back is for all the former members that have played at Ohio State. This is a great accomplishment.”
Steinbach clinched the championship for Ohio State with a 6-5 (7-4), 6-4 win against Connor Farren on court No. 4. Steinbach was down 3-0 and 4-2 in the tiebreaker before reeling off five consecutive points. The win improves Steinbach’s record to 10-1 on the season, with the Buckeye winning seven consecutive matches.
“To help the team clinch the match is an unbelievable feeling,” Steinbach said. “I was up a set and playing good tennis then I realized after Peter won, I had a chance to serve for the title. I was a little nervous. The deciding point came down to a volley and I was aggressive at the net and was able to place a good shot for the clinching point.”
In doubles action, the No. 2 duo of Kobelt and Metka were first off court, defeating No. 25 Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento 6-4 on court No. 1. Diaz and Steinbach clinched the doubles point for the Buckeyes on court No. 3 with a 6-4 win against Eric Johnson and Max De Vroome. Redshirt junior Hunter Callahan and freshman Herkko Pollanen were trailing 3-5 on court No. 2 against Roberto Quiroz and Farren when play was called.
Ahead 1-0 in singles play, Ohio State and USC each took three first sets, but for the second consecutive match, Callahan posted an upset on court No. 6 to finish first for the Buckeyes. He defeated No. 47 Jonny Wang 6-3, 6-4 for his 11th consecutive win and give the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead.
No. 23 Kobelt also had his second-consecutive upset of the tournament, defeating No. 7 Sarmiento 6-3, 6-4 with an ace on match point. It was revenge for Kobelt, who lost to Sarmiento in the National Indoors tournament this past fall.
The Trojans got on the board with No. 16 Hanfmann defeating Diaz 6-5 (7-4), 6-3, but it wasn’t long until Steinbach brought home the trophy with a winning volley.
The Buckeyes are now 3-5 all-time versus USC, winning the past two meetings against the Trojans. The Scarlet and Gray are now 21-12 all-time at the tournament. In 2014, Ohio State has compiled a 7-0 record against ITA top-25 teams in 2014 (No. 17 Kentucky, 4-0; No. 8 Texas A&M, 4-3; No. 12 Florida, 4-1, No. 10 Texas, 4-2; No. 1 Virginia, 4-3; No. 3 USC, 4-1).