The Ohio State men’s tennis team will be on both familiar yet oddly unfamiliar ground Saturday when it plays Southern California in an NCAA Super Regional.
The fourth-seeded Buckeyes have reached this Round of 16 every year since 2003, excluding the COVID-canceled 2020 tournament.
But when Ohio State steps on the outdoor courts at the Ty Tucker Tennis Center against the 13th-seeded Trojans, it will be doing so for only the second time all year.
Last week’s second-round match against Columbia was the only time this spring that the weather hasn’t forced the Buckeyes (26-3) to play on their indoor courts. Since playing at Texas and Texas A&M in mid-March, the Buckeyes’ only other outdoors match came in the Big Ten tournament against Michigan State in Madison, Wisconsin.
“Yeah, it’s really strange,” said junior Cannon Kingsley. “We’ve had some unlucky weather.”
Rare outdoor match brings different environment as Buckeyes face Southern California
In that sense, USC could have an advantage. The Trojans are used to playing outside.
“It’s a totally different game,” Kingsley said. “Indoors, it’s such a controlled environment, and it’s louder as well with the crowd. Outside, it’s a little bit harder to make that kind of environment where you can’t hear yourself think.”
Coach Ty Tucker said there’s no point in worrying about the infrequency of outdoor matches.
“What are you going to do, sit around and complain about it?” Tucker said. “All you can do is try to beat the guy that’s 90 feet away from you.”
College tennis crowds are hardly genteel, and Kingsley and Tucker hope a packed crowd will give the Buckeyes a lift, even if playing outdoors might keep it from being deafening.
The winner of Saturday’s match advances to the final site of the NCAA championships starting Thursday in Champaign, Illinois. A Buckeye win would set up a quarterfinal matchup against Michigan if the No. 5 Wolverines defeat Texas.
Ohio State has played Michigan three times this season, dropping a non-conference match in Ann Arbor, winning in Columbus and then losing in the Big Ten tournament finals.
Getting to Champaign won’t be easy. USC has won 21 national titles and has advanced to this round the past 15 tournaments. The Pac-12 champion Trojans (20-5) have won 12 straight matches.
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