Top-seeded Texas fails to repeat conference titles, falls in championship to Baylor

Robert Trevino

Texas entered Lawrence, Kansas, for the Big 12 Championship as the No. 2 team in the country, having not lost a conference match in over 365 days, and looking to defend last year’s conference title.

Though the site of the conference championship was a far cry from the Texas Tennis Center — which hosted the 2018 tournament — there was a little déjà vu for the Longhorns, who advanced on a bye to the semifinals on Saturday by virtue of being the No. 1 seed to face No. 25 Oklahoma. Texas had faced the Sooners the previous Sunday to wrap up regular season play, a match it won 5-2

After Colin Markes pushed his dual match singles record to 16–2 with a win over Mason Beiler, the Longhorns secured the opportunity to win back-to-back conference championships for the first time in school history with a date against the second-seeded and No. 8 nationally ranked Baylor Bears.

The doubles point — one of interim head coach Bruce Berque’s points of emphasis late in the year — looked to be in the Longhorns’ hands after Harrison Scott and Christian Sigsgaard swept the No. 1 doubles pair in the country in Sven Lah and Jimmy Bendeck, 6-0. But the Bears would take the remaining two doubles matches, earning the crucial point.

“I think the doubles point was, again, pivotal and it is tough to win a match against a team like this,” Berque said. “Losing the doubles, we just didn’t execute as well as Baylor did in key moments.”

No. 53 Scott kept his momentum from doubles, however, running through No. 76 Will Little in straight sets to even the match at one point apiece. It seemed as though Texas would do what it had done all year in conference play: drop the doubles point but run away with singles.

But it would be the Bears’ day. Baylor’s Lah and No. 49 Matias Soto outlasted Markes and Ito, respectively, in second-set tiebreakers to each win in straight sets and push the overall score to 3-1 in favor of Baylor. And with the Longhorn threats of Sigsgaard and Rodrigo Banzer — two reliable seniors — still on the court, Adrian Boitan clinched the final point over No. 73 Leonardo Telles to win the Big 12 title for Baylor.

“It’s nice to see our freshman (Boitan) come through for us in the end,” Baylor head coach Brian Boland said. “That guy is a warrior and it was well deserving that he finished the match.”

It was the Longhorns’ first loss in Big 12 play since a loss to Texas Tech on April 19, 2018.

“We will be sad today and we will be sad tomorrow, but we have to get back to work and wait for our seed call in the (NCAA) tournament,” Scott said of the loss. “(This loss) doesn’t define our season at all. We just can’t let it affect us.”

Texas (23–3) will head back home to Austin and prepare to host an NCAA Regional from May 3-5 at the Texas Tennis Center.