Texas men’s tennis team earns No. 2 ranking, starts season Friday

Nathan Han

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association ranked Texas men’s tennis team second in the nation, with the Longhorns receiving four of the 12 first-place votes. 

Interestingly enough, in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Texas was also ranked No. 2 behind Baylor, who the ITA’s voters ranked fifth in the nation. 

But preseason rankings don’t mean much until matches begin, and the Longhorns learned this last year after winning the national championship despite their No. 8 preseason ranking.

Texas will kick off its spring season at the Miami Invitational this Friday and will play through Sunday against Georgia, Miami and Wisconsin. 

Certainly the Longhorns, most notably No. 2 Yuya Ito, had a strong fall season. Ito took both home both singles titles at the ITA Fall National Championships and the ITA All-American Championships. All three ITA Player of the Month awards were awarded to Longhorns.

But despite an outstanding season, there are still questions to be asked of the defending champions before they enter dual match season against Indiana at home on Jan. 25.

The most pressing question is how head coach Bruce Berque will manage who plays in the dual-match season. After seniors No. 2 Ito and No. 13 Christian Sigsgaard, the only two upperclassmen on the roster, Berque has eight players to fill four singles spots and two doubles spots. 

Sophomores Chih Chi Huang and Nevin Arimilli and redshirt freshman Cleeve Harper certainly have the most experience of those players left, while freshman Siem Woldeab had an impressive fall season, earning September ITA Player of the Month awards. 

The three other freshmen — Jacob Bullard, Evin McDonald and Eshan Talluri — and January newcomer Eliot Spizzirri all made up the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation. Berque could have the duo of Bullard and Talluri, ranked No. 46, play doubles together as they did throughout the fall season.

While the abundance of choices might seem like a good problem for Berque to have in his first full year as head coach, he won’t have a lot of time to figure out his best lineups before facing a tough nonconference schedule.

Texas will face Florida State on Jan. 15 and No. 6 Ohio State on Feb. 1 before the National Team Indoor Championships in mid-February.

“For a lot of the younger guys that haven’t really experienced the dual-match season, we need to tell them that the atmosphere is a lot different than playing individual tournaments,” Ito said. “Playing in the college dual match season is a completely different beast from playing juniors or even college individual tournaments.”