Texas men’s tennis caps off undefeated March with win over No. 6 Texas A&M

Ross Fisher

The Texas men’s tennis team has dug itself into a deep hole at the start of almost every match this season, yet the Longhorns almost always seem to find a heroic way to overturn a large deficit.

At the Texas Tennis Center on Wednesday, No. 7 Texas found itself trailing by multiple games in each doubles match against No. 6 Texas A&M. Somehow, the Longhorns found a way to snatch the doubles point, which proved to be decisive in their 4-3 win over the Aggies.

Texas A&M was in the driver’s seat early on at both the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles courts, and it seemed like Texas would have to rely on singles play to find a way back into the match. Head coach Bruce Berque said his Longhorns have too much anxiety at the start of matches, which has led to poor starts.

“Honestly, I think a little case of nerves in the beginning of the match, and not handling it well (caused the struggles),” Berque said. “The good news is that when they dig themselves into the hole, they don’t fall apart, and they’re able to dig in and find a way to get back to it.”

At court No. 2, despite being down 3-0, sophomore Cleeve Harper celebrated every winner like it was match point. His energy appeared to not only rub off on his partner, junior Chih Chi Huang, but it also translated onto the No. 1 court as well. No. 12-ranked sophomore duo Eliot Spizzirri and Siem Woldeab gave Texas a lifeline on No. 1 with a nail-biting 7-5 win over the No. 8 Texas A&M pair, senior Juan Carlos Aguilar and graduate student Bjorn Thomson.

After a loss at No. 3, it was completely up to Harper and Huang to win the crucial doubles point. They slowly but surely found their way back into the match and found themselves up 6-5 with a match point. Eventually, they went to a tiebreaker that seemed like it would never end.

On the fourth match point of the tiebreaker, with the score at 10-9, a ferocious return by Huang forced an Aggie error that completed yet another remarkable turnaround for Texas.

With the doubles point secured, all Texas needed was three victories in singles matches. The first of which came from No. 99 Woldeab, who dropped to No. 3 on Wednesday due to nagging shin splints that prevented him from performing at his best.

Woldeab’s 6-1,7-5 win over No. 77 junior Noah Schacter marked his first win since Jan. 23, when he beat then-No. 12-ranked Duarte Vale of then-No. 9-ranked Florida.

The next Longhorn off the court was the hype man himself, Harper, who dispatched of No. 78 sophomore Pierce Rollins 6-3, 6-2. With Berque never knowing where his wins are going to come from, he has counted on Harper to consistently be the glue that holds his team together.

“I think he has become the most consistent competitor on our team,” Berque said. “Chih Chi (Huang) and Cleeve (Harper) battled in doubles too. They saved match points, and that might have flipped the outcome of the overall match, where we won 4-0, but had we lost the doubles point, we might be looking at a 4-3 loss.”

Sophomore Evin McDonald, who has also shown tremendous improvement this season, clinched the match for Texas at 4-0, with a 7-6, 6-4 singles win on court No. 6. After Texas had already clinched the dual match, they went on to lose singles on courts No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5, settling the score at 4-3.

Texas has barely any time to rest on its laurels as the Longhorns face another tough intrastate rival in No. 8 TCU on Saturday, when they will continue their six-match homestand at the Texas Tennis Center.