Cowboy Tennis draws Columbus regional with top-seeded Ohio State

Apr. 29—Oklahoma State didn't have to watch much of the NCAA men's tennis selection show before knowing its regional destination.

The Cowboys (17-9) are headed to Columbus, Ohio, for the NCAA regional round. No. 1 overall Ohio State (29-1) is hosting the regional.

Before a potential matchup with the Buckeyes, Oklahoma State must get past Vanderbilt (13-12).

Vanderbilt is under the direction first-year head coach Scott Brown.

Rewind nine years and both Brown and OSU coach Dustin Taylor were coaching together. As assistants, they helped lead Virginia to back-to-back-to-back national titles from 2015-2017.

Brown returned to his alma mater.

"They have history, and it's his job to get them back to that point," Taylor said. "He's done a remarkable job this year getting them back into the tournament ...Vanderbilt's a good team."

Oklahoma State faced Vanderbilt last season and narrowly escaped Nashville with a 4-3 victory after coming back down 3-1 to win the match. Many of this year's Cowboys were also on the roster last year, but in Taylor's eyes this is completely different.

"It is a totally new Vanderbilt team," Taylor said. "New coaching staff and they got a really good recruiting class in. So one of the best coached teams in the country, and they've got a ton of life because they're going dancing for the first time in a while."

As for a potential matchup with top-seeded Ohio State, Taylor entertains the possibility but doesn't dwell on it.

"We'll do our homework on all four teams in the region," Taylor said. "That's what you do."

It's hard not to prepare yourself for the dynasty that has become Ohio State tennis. The Buckeyes have won 18 Big Ten titles since 2004 and have become a perennial top-five team under legendary coach Ty Tucker. He's so highly regarded that the Ohio State tennis facility is named the Ty Tucker Tennis Center.

Despite that, the Cowboys have faced top talent all season. Just recently they faced No. 2 Texas in the Big 12 semifinals for the third time this season.

"It's still the same court, same ball and it's two great programs going up against each other," Taylor said. "Hopefully, we get past Vanderbilt and you get a shot at Ohio State."

Additionally for Oklahoma State, the return of talented freshman Derek Pham is possible. Pham suffered a stress fracture in his back last November and has been held out of action ever since.

The plan was to have him back for Big 12 regular season play, then Big 12 tournament play, then postseason tournament play. He has been cleared for action ahead of this weekend's regional.

The selection show aired on Monday at 5 p.m, and the team is expecting to depart for Columbus as early as Tuesday afternoon. That's followed by two days of practices leading up to the regional opener against Vanderbilt.

This is OSU's second consecutive regional appearance under Taylor. The Cowboys won their first-round matchup against Florida a season ago, and they'll look to start off on that same track against Vanderbilt. That matchup is set for Friday, May 3, in Columbus, Ohio. With a win, they would advance to likely face No. 1 Ohio State the following day.

All 16 regional hosts/with adjacent pairings

No. 1 Ohio State/No. 16 Miss. State No. 3 Virginia/No. 14 NC State

No. 9 Arizona/No. 8 Columbia No. 11 Oklahoma/No. 6 Wake Forest

No. 5 Kentucky/No. 12 Harvard No. 7 Tennessee/No. 10 Florida St.

No. 13 Duke/No. 4 TCU No. 15 Texas A&M/No. 2 Texas

The team that emerges from each grouping will face its adjacent regional in the super regional round

Eight teams will emerge from supers and advance to the national championships hosted in Stillwater.

With the NCAA National Championships being hosted in Stillwater, Oklahoma State will need an improbable run to get back home.

"Just trust your work," Taylor said. "Trust yourself. Trust your teammates. Lean on your teammates.

"Be present. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy your teammates. This is the last time this group's gonna collectively be together, so you want to fight your tails off to make sure it's not the last time."