The Buckeyes were nearing an NCAA record for all sports for consecutive home wins, and they knew exactly where they were as the approached the big number -- 184, the streak put together by Stanford's women's tennis team from 1999-2011.
So when OSU's top player, Peter Kobelt, saw the Buckeyes were nearing the team win in the record-setting 185th match Friday night at the Varsity Tennis Center, he could feel the weight of the moment closing in.
"Our coaches always tell us not to watch the scoreboard, but it's a pretty nice and big scoreboard so you end up catching yourself looking up at it," Kobelt said with a laugh. "There was a moment where I was like, it's going to come down to me. Definitely I had a few moments in the second set when I was pretty tight. I was up 40-love on his serve, I think 4-all, and I ended up losing that game. I had some nerve-wracking shots that didn't turn out pretty well for me, but I knew I had to keep my composure. I was getting a lot of chances so I knew I would eventually convert on one."
And that's exactly what Kobelt did. After winning his first set, 6-1, against Northwestern's Raleigh Smith, he battled back from that 5-4 deficit in the second set to capture that set by a 7-5 margin and clinch the 4-3 win for Ohio State.
It was somewhat fitting that Kobelt -- the consummmate Buckeye from nearby New Albany who rooms with football players Evan Spencer and Jeff Heuerman -- finished off the match, as he's a senior and plays at the top spot in the lineup for the Buckeyes.
"I'm not going to lie, it was definitely a relief, but I knew what was riding on the match," he said. "All the work that in the past guys on the team and the alumni (put in) ... it's a great feeling. It's great to be able to hold the record now."
The record joins this February's ITA National Team Indoors championship as a major accomplishment this season for the second-ranked Buckeyes, who are now 20-2 on the season despite losing defending NCAA singles champ Blaz Rola to the pro ranks before the campaign.
Head coach Ty Tucker, a former OSU player who has made the Buckeyes into one of the top teams in the sport, tried to keep the streak in perspective, though.
"What can you say?" he said. "It's nice that maybe we have a streak that will never be broken. You get into this to try to win some titles for Ohio State and win a few Big Ten championship trophies, but at the end of the day you get something like this and you never even imagined it could happen. It hasn't sunk in yet."
The Buckeyes weren't quite at their best but did start by capturing the doubles point to begin play, in part because of a win by the sixth-ranked duo of Kobelt and Kevin Metka. They clinched doubles -- college teams get a point for winning two of three doubles matches -- after a win by Hunter Callahan and Ralf Steinbach.
In singles, the teams split the opening sets in the six matches that are each worth a team point, and the 109th-ranked Metka made it 2-0 when he finished off Mihir Kumar, 6-3, 6-3. Steinbach made it 3-0 when he won a second-set tiebreaker to beat Alex Pasareanu, 6-3, 7-6 (2), but NU battled back with wins at courts two and five to make it a 3-2 score.
That left it up to either Kobelt or Chris Diaz, with the eighth-ranked Kobelt finishing off the team win thanks to his victory against 37th-ranked Smith. Diaz kept battling but eventually lost 7-5, 7-5 to Konrad Zieba to set the final score.
With that, the streak that began with a win April 5, 2003, lives on.
Metka talks about the win: