Texas back to winning ways after 5-2 defeat of Oklahoma

Ross Fisher

After a strong start in doubles, No. 6 Texas never looked back and put their bitter rival, No. 21 Oklahoma, to the sword in a 5-2 victory.

The Longhorns got their first win in Big 12 action, after falling just short against TCU last week, taking their overall record to 16–4.

For most of the season Texas has struggled out of the gate in matches, which has forced them to play near perfect tennis down the stretch in doubles. This time they came out firing, silencing the Sooners’ bench in the process. Head coach Bruce Berque said the group made a “concerted effort” this week to improve their start to doubles play.

Graduate transfer Payton Holden got the nod at No. 3 doubles for the first time since March 12 at Rice, again teaming up with freshman Micah Braswell. Holden showed no signs of rust and stepped in to get a quick 6-1 win, alongside Braswell.

Berque said choosing between Holden and sophomore Jacob Bullard at No. 3 has been difficult all season, but Holden provided a much-needed change up for a No. 3 team that had dropped its last two matchups.

“It was a decision we were back and forth on a lot,” Berque said. “We didn’t feel like we were getting enough out of that No. 3 team, and it wasn’t necessarily just because of one person. But in general, we felt like that No. 3 team should be stronger for us, and we just felt like we gave it a really good chance with Jacob (Bullard) and Micah (Braswell).”

After the win at No. 3, it became a race to see who would finish the job first for Texas between courts 1 and 2. It was No. 12 sophomore pairing Eliot Spizzirri and Siem Woldeab who put away their counterparts first, defeating No. 28-ranked Oklahoma duo Nathan Han and Alex Martinez 6-3 at No. 1.

In singles, No. 16 Braswell was the first off the court, trouncing No. 111 Oklahoma junior Mason Beiler 6-1, 6-1 to snap a very uncharacteristic two match losing streak.

Next off the court was redshirt sophomore Cleeve Harper, who destroyed Han 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4. Friday’s performance was just another example of Harper’s stark improvement over the season, and Berque said he has been impressed by his work ethic and energy.

“He’s become a little beast, most simply put. He’s gotten stronger, he’s gotten more competitive, he’s the emotional catalyst of the team,” Berque said. “He’s been playing really good tennis. His game has completely transformed in the two years since he’s been here.”

The clincher for Texas this time around was junior Chih Chi Huang, playing at his usual No. 5 spot. After going down 4-0 in the first set, the Canadian went on a 6-0 run to take the set, and used a 6-3 advantage in the second to get the win.

Up 4-0 and with the dual match win over the Sooners in the bag, No. 99 Woldeab dropped a third set tiebreaker, barely losing out at No. 3. Sophomore Evin McDonald lost in a superbreaker at No. 6, and No. 23 Spizzirri won his super tiebreaker at No. 1 to beat No. 108 Oklahoma senior Jake Van Emburgh.

After the narrow loss to TCU, Texas will look at every Big 12 match as a must-win. On Sunday, they will take the court for another conference match against No. 18 Oklahoma State back at the Texas Tennis Center, as they look to beat them for the second time this season.