Texas men’s tennis season review

Ryan Hopper, General Sports Reporter

Led by Big 12 Player of the Year Eliot Spizzirri and fifth-year coach Bruce Berque, Texas men’s tennis made its third Final Four appearance in four years. Texas has been a consistent powerhouse during Berque’s tenure, advancing to the Sweet 16 every year since he took over midway through the 2019 season, culminating in a national championship.

The Texas Tennis Center was a fortress this year, with the Longhorns going a perfect 15–0 in Austin with packed, burnt orange crowds creating a raucous atmosphere after every point.

Even on a brisk Sunday afternoon in late January, hundreds cheered on Texas as it took down then-No.12 Georgia in a tight match that featured three players in the top 10 of the singles rankings. With the Longhorns leading 3-1, all eyes turned to court one as then-No. 1 Ethan Quinn was battling then-No. 3 Spizzirri with the match about to head to a third set.

While the junior from Greenwich, Connecticut dropped the first set in a tiebreaker, he came back strong with dominant 6-1 wins in the second and third sets, clinching the match for Texas and securing him the new No. 1 national ranking he would retain throughout the season. 

The Longhorns were on fire from Feb. 26 to April 22, going 12–0 overall, with all 12 wins coming against ranked opponents. This run included three top 10 wins, with two coming against in-state rival TCU, the second of which clinched the Big 12 regular season title at the Texas Tennis Center.

Despite a loss to the then-No. 3 Horned Frogs in the final of the Big 12 tournament, No. 1 overall seed Texas continued its late-season momentum into the NCAA tournament, sweeping Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Pepperdine, No. 16 North Carolina and No. 9 South Carolina to advance to the Final Four.

No. 5 Virginia, the defending national champions and three-time defending ACC champions, faced Texas and lived up to their championship pedigree with a 4-1 win. The Cavaliers dominated doubles on the two and three lines, winning two tight singles matches after dropping the first set to Texas’ redshirt junior Cleeve Harper and junior Siem Woldeab. Virginia completed its title defense the next day by sweeping No. 3 Ohio State. 

While the Longhorns fell short of their team goal, there were many notable individual efforts. Sarasota, Florida native Micah Braswell was named to the 2023 NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team after going 5-0 in singles, not dropping a set in any matches and only once allowing an opponent to win four games in a set. Braswell stood out in the loss against Virginia with a commanding 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 49 ranked Jeffery van der Schulenburg.

No. 16 James Trotter and Andrew Lutschaunig of Ohio State outlasted Harper and Spizzirri in the final of the NCAA Doubles Championship, 6-4, 6-4. Key breakpoint wins at the end of each set for the Buckeyes’ pairing of redshirt seniors assured that reigning doubles champion Harper would not defend the title he won with Richard Ciamarra, who graduated in 2022. 

Harper and Spizzirri achieved the runner-up title in the NCAA Doubles Championship, adding to the team’s overall success this season. Spizzirri, Harper and Braswell all took home All-American honors, accumulating 17 total All-Americans during Berque’s career.

The Longhorns ended their season ranked No. 3 and are eager to begin preparing for the 2023-24 season, with Spizzirri having another year of eligibility under his belt.