Womens tennis falls to Northwestern in seasons 1st conference loss

The OSU women’s tennis team lost its first conference match of the season to perennial powerhouse No. 18 Northwestern, 5-2, on Friday. Temperatures during the match fell below 50 degrees, and wind gusts reached 33 mph. The loss drops the Buckeyes (10-8) to third place behind Michigan and Northwestern in the Big Ten with a 3-1 conference record. The Buckeyes, playing without injured senior Paloma Escobedo, were losing, 4-0, and facing a shutout when senior Cami Hubbs and sophomore Fidan Manashirova dug in. Manashirova ground out a hard-earned win against Northwestern’s Linda Abu Mushrefova in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6. Hubbs followed up her teammate’s win by defeating Northwestern’s Stacey Lee, 6-4, 7-6. “It was a really good win, and I felt really good out there,” Hubbs said. “I think we really showed (Northwestern) today … it doesn’t matter where, we’re going to be a contender.” Manashirova agreed. “This was a really good match for me,” she said. “I feel like the higher I play, the more competition I get, and I get to test myself.” Despite the setback, coach Chuck Merzbacher and his players are optimistic their tenacity will benefit them for the remainder of the season. “They never stopped fighting,” Merzbacher said. “We’re going to keep battling, and when you do that, you get in a position to win.” Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the loss Friday hasn’t curbed their focus. “I think the sky’s the limit for us,” Manashirova said. “We have to bring our best tennis every match.” Manashirova and the Buckeyes will need to bring their best tennis Saturday when they travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on Big Ten leader Michigan before traveling to Michigan State on Sunday. Merzbacher is confident his team will respond. “I think we’re going to build on it,” he said. “Spirits are high. We’re strong, and I feel like we’re ready for that trip.”