Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 29, 2022 flipbook.
The Red River Rivalry was in full force Sunday as No. 10 Texas men’s tennis faced No. 30 Oklahoma in Austin.
After a successful west coast trip that featured Texas beating two top 25 teams, the Longhorns were ready to make a statement at home versus the rival Sooners.
“Texas versus OU is always going to be one of those rivalries where it’s always gonna be chippy,” sophomore Siem Woldeab said.
In typical rivalry fashion, the matchup didn’t fall short of its high-intensity expectations.
The doubles portion of the competition quickly turned into an intense match at all three courts. Players from both teams exclaimed after every point, with shouts of, “Let’s go!” echoing almost constantly throughout the Texas Tennis Center.
Neither team was ready to give up points, with Oklahoma leading at different points in all three matches.
The Longhorns, however, were too much for the Sooner duos as senior Richard Ciamarra and sophomore Cleeve Harper took the first match 6-4, with sophomore Eliot Spizzirri and Woldeab winning an intense tiebreak against their opponents to earn Texas the coveted doubles point to kick off the match.
“In spring season, (you’ve) got all your guys playing around you, and you just gotta embrace that energy,” Woldeab said after the match. “Usually, in college tennis, the team with (the) most energy is the winning team.”
The doubles point has been a struggle for the Longhorns in recent matches, as they’ve taken just one of their previous five, including multiple straight sweeps by ranked opponents. On the flip side, the Sooners had been one of the best doubles teams in the nation, coming into Sunday’s meet having won the point in 14 of their last 16 matches.
“I knew Oklahoma was playing well in doubles, and I was pretty impressed,” head coach Bruce Berque said. “I see why today.”
The upset in doubles set Texas up for success early, as the Longhorns have been much more potent in the singles competition. Berque trotted out five separate top 100 singles players, the lowest-ranked being Woldeab, the most recent Big 12 Player of the Week.
Sophomore Micah Braswell continued to show why he’s a top 25 singles player in the country, easily defeating unranked junior Alex Martinez 6-4, 6-1. Braswell has now won four of his last five matches from the top spot in Texas’ lineup, solidifying himself as one of the best in the nation.
With a strong 2-0 start, Texas needed to win just two of the last five singles games to take home the victory over the rival Sooners. The Longhorns chased the win with ferocity, led by Woldeab in singles.
The California product worked through a grueling first set against No. 125 Jordan Hasson, with both competitors trading leads. Needing one final point in a tiebreak, Woldeab finished off Hasson with a perfect swing, sending a cry throughout the stadium.
Woldeab kept up the intensity, constantly exclaiming “Go Texas!” and roaring out loud screams after every successful point.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Berque said. “I’ve never been part of a team culture as good as this.”
Even at 2-1 in his second set, Woldeab had the crowd enthralled with his match, making sure everyone in the stadium knew when he had won the point, or when the referee made an incorrect call. Woldeab’s intensity and fight earned him a commanding straight-set win to give Texas its third point of the day.
“I’m super confident right now,” Woldeab said. “I’m confident in the team, the way we’re looking. I can speak for everyone and say the rest of the teams are confident for sure.”
The Longhorns took the fourth point and the match with No. 66 Eliot Spizzirri’s defeat of Baptiste Anselmo in two sets. With the win fully assured and the entire crowd watching, No. 124 Chih Chi Huang and Oklahoma junior Justin Schlageter played an intense set for the final match of the day. The Canadian gave the Longhorns their final point and capped off a 5-2 home win for the Longhorns.
Sitting at 11–7 on the season, the Longhorns have six more matches, five against conference opponents, left before the Big 12 Championship in late April.