Bloomington, Ind.- The Indiana men's tennis dug itself in a hole before battling back only to lose to No. 31 Ohio State, 5-2. The match-up between the two undefeated Big Ten teams was as advertised with everything coming down to the No. 3 and No. 6 singles spots. Both matches went three sets. The loss dropped the No. 23 Hoosiers to 11-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten.
"We were way down, and we got back into the match," Indiana interim head coach Matt Pledger said. "The big thing we really need to work on is finding ways to win the match when we are up. Double faulting, missing easy shots when the match is on the line, that is when you find out your true colors, if you are a fighter, if you are a competitor. I am proud of the way they guys fought at the end of the match, but then it is frustrating to see how we can work so hard just to give it away."
After finding itself in a 3-1, it appeared as though the Hoosiers may be turning the corner. Sophomore Jakub Praibis, the 81st ranked singles player in the country, downed Phil Metz in straight sets to close the Buckeye lead to 3-2. Praibis downed Metz 6-3, 6-4 and improved his record to 12-6 on the season.
The only matches remaining on the court were at the No. 3 and No. 6 positions. Both matches were nip and tuck with the Hoosiers actually leading both matches in the third set. Indiana needed to win both matches to claim the team victory.
At No. 3 singles, senior Petr Novotny rebounded after losing the first set 6-3 to claim the second, 6-2, over No. 18 Jeremy Wurtzman. Novotny then went up a break 3-2 in the third set. Wurtzman was able to even the match and lead 5-4 on serve. Novotny ran into some trouble with his serve in the 10th game as he doubled faulted on two occasions giving Wurtzman triple match point at 15-40. The Hoosiers' No. 3 singles player was about to fight his way back and force duce. It was not to be as Wurtzman won the next two points to claim a 6-4 third set win and the team victory for the Buckeyes. Novotny dropped to 9-6 on the season.
Sophomore Ryan Recht didn't have much luck either with the match on the line. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native was up a break at 5-4 in the third set before Ohio State's Brenton Contini rattled off three straight games for the win. Contini had won the first set 6-2 before Recht picked up the second at 6-3. Recht is now 11-8 on the year and 2-2 in Big Ten play.
For the second straight match, the Hoosiers opened up an early lead by claiming the doubles point. Recht and senior Zach Held snapped a three-match losing skid with an 8-5 win over 47th ranked team of Conor Casey and Ross Wilson at the No. 1 position. The win upped the duo's mark to 8-7 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten.
The Hoosiers' No. 2 team of freshmen John Stone and Viktor Libal clinched the doubles point with an 8-6 win over Wurtzman and Scott Green. The Hoosier tandem has is 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten.
"That is the best doubles we have played in a while," Pledger said. "(Ohio State) had good doubles' teams, and we did a great job of playing our doubles today. We came out from the beginning and played hard, smart, gutsy and really fought."
After taking the early 1-0, the Hoosier dug themselves a hole that they could not recover from. Ohio State ran off the first three singles' victories with wins at the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 5 positions.
The Hoosiers will once again hit the road, this time for a four-match road trip. Indiana will travel to Michigan next weekend to square off with No. 61 Michigan on Saturday, April 5 and then No. 74 Michigan State on Sunday, April 6. Both matches carry a 12:00 p.m. start time.
No. 31 Ohio State 5, No. 23 Indiana 2
Singles 1) No. 47 Vincent Ng (OSU) def. Viktor Libal (IU) 6-3, 6-3
2) No. 81 Jakub Praibis (IU) def. Phil Metz (OSU) 6-3, 6-4
3) No. 18 Jeremy Wurtzman (OSU) def. Petr Novotny (IU) 6-3, 2-6, 6-4
4) Conor Casey (OSU) def. Zach Held (IU) 6-2, 6-2
5) Ross Wilson (OSU) def. Tom Bagnato (IU) 6-2, 7-6 (7)
6) Brenton Contini (OSU) def. Ryan Recht (IU) 6-2, 3-6, 7-5