No. 12 Texas falls short in Athens after strong comeback

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Sophie Stoeger/The Daily Texan

On Sunday, February 13th Micah Braswell makes a run for the ball at the UCF vs UT men’s tennis match.

Matthew Caldwell, Sports Reporter

After a little over a week-long break, Texas was back in action in Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday, falling just short of a victory, losing 4–3, to No. 15 Georgia.

No. 12 Texas faces four top-20 teams in the next two weeks, starting with Georgia, which is coming off a 6–1 win over Mercer, and a 2–1 finish at the ITA Tournament.

Doubles play started on what was a perfect day for tennis. But things quickly went awry for the Longhorns, as the Bulldogs took early breaks in each of the three doubles matches.

Georgia didn’t let up, as the No. 41-ranked doubles team, Trent Bryde and Philip Henning, took down Texas freshman Pierre-Yves Bailly and sophomore Siem Woldeab at line 2, 6-2. Just a couple of minutes later, No. 42 Blake Croyder and Erik Grevilius ended Texas’ hopes of winning the doubles point, defeating sophomore Micah Braswell and junior Chih Chi Huang at line 3, 6-2, and giving Georgia the lead, 1–0.

But head coach Bruce Berque was able to turn the tide for his team, as the Longhorns came out firing in singles play. 

Sophomore Eliot Spizzirri was relentless at line 4, taking the first set 6-4. No. 79 Bryde looked puzzled on his service games, as Spizzirri used a mixture of slice and heavy top-spin returns. His serving game was on point as well, making for a rough afternoon for Bryde. Spizzirri was first off the court for Texas, winning the second set 6-4 and tying the match up at 1–1.

After a loss at line 5 from redshirt sophomore Cleeve Harper, 6-4, 6-4, Georgia took the lead yet again, 2–1.

No. 104 Woldeab got off to a rough start, losing the first set 6-2 at line 6. However, it was smooth sailing in the second set. Woldeab took the first five games until Thomas Paulsell of Georgia finally held a service game. But in the next game, Woldeab held serve, taking the second set 6-1.

After two lopsided sets, Woldeab and Paulsell went back and forth in the third, fighting all the way to a tiebreaker. Woldeab had two match points, but Paulsell pulled off a couple of passing shots to even things back up and eventually win the third set, 7-6 (9-7). This win gave Georgia a 3–1 lead over the Longhorns, making any attempt at a comeback even harder.

At line 2, No. 71 Braswell lost the first set 6-4, but it did not seem to deter the Florida product. He would go on to win the next two sets, 6-2, 6-2, and tighten the score with Georgia yet again at 3–2. The victory marked another eye-catching win for Braswell, who has proven his skills with wins over No. 92 Sam Riffice of Florida and No. 51 Melios Efstathiou of Wake Forest.

Despite losing his first set 6-4, senior Richard Ciamarra fought hard to the very end. He battled with No. 44 Henning at line 3, outplaying the Bulldog in a tiebreaker to win the second set, 7-6 (6-4). His momentum would carry into the third set and never cease. Ciamarra evened the overall match at 3–3 with a 6-2 win in the third set. 

Texas’ comeback hopes fell onto the racket of No. 17 Bailly.

Bailly made the first set look easy against No. 22 Hamish Stewart, winning 6-3. The second set was anything but easy, though. The two held serve until Stewart finally broke Bailly at deuce. Stewart was previously 0/5 on break points, but at 40-40, he made sure not to lose another, taking the second set 6-4 and forcing a deciding set.

Stewart came out swinging early in the third, breaking Bailly and taking a lead. Bailly did well to break back, but couldn’t hold his serve as Stewart played outstanding defense, barely allowing any balls to pass him. This incredible display of defense proved too much for Bailly on Tuesday afternoon, and Texas’ comeback fell just short.

The Longhorns now have a little over a week to prepare before they travel to College Station and face old Big 12 rival, No. 18 Texas A&M.