Arimilli fills in for an injured Braswell, Texas men’s tennis defeats Texas Tech 4-1

Ross Fisher

Texas junior Nevin Arimilli gets physically and mentally prepared for every match as if he is the focal point, even though he normally only plays when filling in for an injured teammate.

After a long spell watching from the sidelines, Arimilli finally saw action at No. 6 singles Sunday, getting a win in straight sets to help No. 7 Texas defeat No. 21 Texas Tech in their final regular season match, 4-1, at McLeod Tennis Center in Lubbock.

Star freshman Micah Braswell was a late scratch due to a minor hip injury, so Arimilli stepped up as first alternate. Head coach Bruce Berque said he has asked Arimilli to prepare to play all season long, even though he normally does not.

“I’m constantly talking to Nevin like, ‘I don’t know, you may have to be playing tomorrow, you should plan on it.’ And most of the time he hasn’t played,” Berque said. “Even today, I didn’t know until literally two minutes before the singles started if he would play.”

Sunday marked Arimilli’s first time in the lineup since March 19. That day, he made an incredible comeback in his No. 6 match against then-ranked No. 15 Arizona to clinch a huge overall comeback win for Texas.

Berque said Arimilli has a reason to be frustrated after the lack of playing time he has received, especially after getting the job done when called upon against Arizona and Oklahoma on March 7. However, Berque commended his attitude and commitment.

“I think he’s doing an unusually good job of that — he is driven and so he’s got his own goals and he’s got his own confidence, but he’s also mature and unselfish,” Berque said. “He couldn’t be handling it any better. In fact, I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone handle it better than he’s handled it.”

Sophomore Siem Woldeab, who Arimilli filled in for against Oklahoma and Arizona, has been showing steady improvement after experiencing stress reactions in his shins. Today, his win at No. 2 singles clinched Texas’ first win in Lubbock since 2014.

“It’s been a little tough coming back, but I’ve started to find my groove a little bit,” Woldeab said. “The win today definitely helped. It’s always tough to play in Lubbock, but we got the job done, and (I’m) so happy for the team.”

Along with Arimilli and No. 81 Woldeab, sophomores Evin McDonald and Eliot Spizzirri won their matches at No. 5 and No. 1 singles, respectively.

For McDonald, it was his first win since then-ranked No. 6 Texas A&M on March 31.

On the other hand, No. 20 Spizzirri built upon his dominant stretch, getting his fourth win in a row at Texas Tech. Berque believes his No. 1 player is hitting his stride ahead of the postseason.

Texas outperformed the expectations placed on this young group, ending the regular season 19–4 and finishing conference play 4–1, despite losing their first conference match to then-ranked No. 8 TCU.

With the regular season done, Texas will play in the Big 12 Championship in Waco next weekend.

“We are obviously a very young team, so I don’t think many people (were) counting on us to do this well this early,” Woldeab said. “They’re always just saying, ‘Two years in the future these guys (are) gonna be good,’ but we have the mentality that we want it now. Who knows what can happen at (the NCAA Team Championship) — we’ve got our eyes on the prize for sure.”