No. 3 Texas beats Rice, 5-2, amid head coaching scandal

Robert Trevino

The No. 3 Texas men’s tennis team handled business in the second round of their seven-match home stand, defeating the Rice Owls, 5-2, on a day in which head coach Michael Center was implicated in conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

With a crowd of over 100 in attendance — including a significant number of visiting Rice fans who made their presence repeatedly known — and a south wind gusting at over 20 miles per hour at times, as well as a nearby baseball game at Disch-Falk Field pumping in music, the Longhorns grabbed the doubles point after No. 13 Christian Sigsgaard & Harrison Scott clinched their match to win 6-3.

In Center’s absence, associate head coach Bruce Berque stepped in as interim head coach for Tuesday’s game and the foreseeable future.

“This is my fifth year altogether (at Texas), so I’m pretty comfortable with the routines that Coach Center has established,” Berque said. “So right now, we just want to keep those same routines and keep things familiar and keep going forward.”

The singles’ matches left no drama to be desired, as Chih Chi Huang battled back and forth with Rice’s Mohamed Abdel-Aziz before winning the first set, 7-5. Meanwhile, on the other end of the complex, Texas’ Rodrigo Banzer — who started singles against NC State, but otherwise had not played much singles this season — fell in a tiebreaker to the Owls’ Campbell Salmon.

The Longhorns clinched the match after Colin Markes finished Adam Oscislawski, 6-3, 6-2, followed quickly by No. 9 Yuya Ito, who won, 6-2, 6-2, over Jacob Eskeland. 

With one more match needed to win, Scott rallied from 15-40 down to win the game and the match, 6-1, 7-5.

“I think we did a pretty good job today, I was pretty pleased with it,” Berque said. “Not everyone played well, but I told the team beforehand that it was quite windy to start, and I don’t think anyone was going to play their best tennis tonight … regardless of the level of play, that we wanted everyone to be positive and stay in good mental and physical habits.”

With the match already clinched, Huang added another point for Texas in his win over Abdel-Aziz, 7-5, 6-4. However, Rice’s Campbell Salmon would defeat Rodrigo Banzer while the Owls’ No. 1 Sumit Sarkar took down Texas’ No. 4 ranked Christian Sigsgaard in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

“He (Sigsgaard) was very frustrated,” Berque said. “I think what hurt him is he got off to a really good start, and then things started slipping a little bit and turning against him, and I was just trying to get him to stay positive and be aggressive. … He got a little negative tonight, and I’m sure he’ll agree with me, and I’m sure he’ll bounce back and be ready for the next one.”

The Longhorns move to 15–1 with their win and will welcome in their only loss Thursday, as No. 1 Ohio State comes into town. The match begins at 5:30 p.m.