Youthful Texas men’s tennis team enjoys playing together among college tennis elite

Ross Fisher

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 2 issue of The Daily Texan.

On match point against then-ranked No. 9 Florida, sophomore Eliot Spizzirri slammed a devastating inside-out forehand winner past Florida’s then-ranked No. 8 junior Sam Riffice, leaving Riffice with no choice but to watch on as a dozen of Spizzirri’s closest buddies swarmed him in delirium.

Since the comeback win over Florida on Jan. 23, No. 7 Texas mounted four other comebacks, including 4-3 wins over then-ranked No. 1 USC, No. 28 Oklahoma and No. 15 Arizona.

All five times that Texas found their back against the wall, a different Longhorn came up clutch with a clinching win, being mobbed by their teammates in the process.

This youthful Texas team has grown incredibly close due to its strength of character and closeness in age. Most of the team is made up of underclassmen, with only one junior and no seniors.

Beating top teams with far more experience, Texas has relied on this on-and off-court chemistry in defining moments, including five comeback wins.

“We do have a lot of fun, and I enjoy living with the guys, but I think it also helps because we build strong relationships,” Spizzirri said. “We have had a lot of close matches, and I think because of how close we are as a team, we use it to our advantage.”

No. 23 Spizzirri and fellow sophomore No. 99 Siem Woldeab are the No. 12-ranked doubles team. Woldeab said he is appreciative that he can play alongside his best friends.

“It is so much fun honestly, like that win against Arizona, I was hurt, and I was feeling it a little bit,” Woldeab said. “But I just wanted to do it for my team and just to have character like my teammates have, it is unbelievable.”

Woldeab went on to say playing with his friends “almost takes a weight off you and makes the sport more fun to play.”

Woldeab believes the team is so close because of the character of his teammates, which he credits to head coach Bruce Berque’s recruitment. Spizzirri is one example. Berque said his character led to him being the most sought after college tennis prospect at one point.

“I think a really underrated part of coach Berque’s recruiting process is how in depth he looks at guys’ personalities,” Woldeab said. “It is a huge part of why we are all so close, especially our recruiting class.”

Due to NCAA’s COVID-19 eligibility exception, freshman Micah Braswell, sophomores Spizzirri, Woldeab, Evin McDonald and Cleeve Harper all have three years of eligibility left after this year. The sophomores recognize that, along with No. 16 Braswell, they have the potential to continue playing at an elite level together for a while.

“It would be amazing to have a fifth year,” Spizziri said. “We have talked about it, but there’s nothing set in stone yet.”

For now, Texas remains entirely focused on trying to win a National Championship this season, as they look to extend their win streak to eight against No. 8 TCU on Saturday.