Top-ranked Longhorns escape Stillwater, edge out No. 26 Cowboys

Robert Trevino

Just a few days after becoming the first Texas men’s tennis team to ascend to the nation’s number one spot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll, the Longhorns began their weekend in Oklahoma with a trip to Stillwater to face the No. 26 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

The trip marked the penultimate regular season game for Texas, who also came in looking to protect its undefeated record in conference play.

“We wanted to do what we had been doing (this season),” interim head coach Bruce Berque said. “We wanted to be aggressive … that’s a theme we’ve been pushing in doubles and singles … and I think we’ve been making really good progress with that.”

There was barely time to celebrate the team’s top rank, as Oklahoma State jumped on Texas quick, winning the doubles point — a point of emphasis for Berque coming in — after Emile Hudd and Matej Vocel took down Leonardo Telles and Colin Markes while Texas’ Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito couldn’t overcome Luke Hammond and Brady Draheim.

“We were doing so well early on (in the year in doubles),” Berque said. “I actually felt a little bit better about it today. … I thought Christian and Harrison had a big improvement today, especially Christian in doubles.”

With Texas down 0-1 heading into singles play, it would be Ito who would even it up for Texas with a dominant 6-1, 6-1 win over the Cowboys’ Maxim Tybar.

And after Texas’ Markes finished Hammond while No. 50 Harrison Scott made quick work of Hudd, it looked like another runaway singles domination for Texas.

But it wouldn’t be so easy, as Oklahoma State would take the match on Court 1, with No. 76 Vocel taking down No. 8 Christian Sigsgaard to put the match at 3-2 in Texas’ favor.

The two remaining matches would each go to the ever-critical third set.

Oklahoma State’s Brady Draheim went up 3-1 in the final set over Texas’ Rodrigo Banzer, but Banzer would battle back to even it to 3-3. Draheim would sweep from there to win 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 and even the match 3-3, leaving the outcome dependent on No. 73 Telles against the Cowboys’ Mathieu Scaglia.

After the match was nodded up at three points apiece, Telles would grab the final 3 games and clinch the match for Texas, 4-3, also clinching at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title for Texas.

“(Oklahoma State) played really well in doubles, really well in singles,” Berque said. “It seemed like one of those matches where everything was going against us. We lost a lot of close points … but our guys kept fighting and Leo stepped up again like he has several times this year.”