The No. 2 Longhorns will begin their dual match season in Gainesville, Florida, against No. 1 Florida on Wednesday in their quest to defend their national championship.
The last time Texas faced a No. 1-ranked team was last March in Bruce Berque’s second match as interim head coach, where the Longhorns avenged their earlier loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes and set the tone for a national championship run.
Berque, now the full-time head coach after inking a five-year deal over the summer, hopes for the same result despite much different circumstances.
One of the biggest differences for Berque this time around? The relative inexperience of this Texas team. Only two of the 10 players are upperclassmen, and several of the six freshmen will see significant playing time.
“The most important thing is if we’re going to be able to get six guys on the court that are not going to be intimidated by being in an away match with probably a really tough crowd,” Berque said. “It’s a big match. For the freshmen, it’s their first dual match experience. I’m really interested to see how they handle it and how we handle it as a team.”
In the Miami Invitational last weekend, the Longhorns played a round-robin format against Wisconsin, Georgia and Miami. The Longhorns won 21 of their 29 singles matches and 10 of their 13 doubles matches for a mostly successful start to the season.
But on Saturday, when the Longhorns played 19th-ranked Georgia in singles, three of their four losses went to a third-set tiebreaker. Their fourth was a tough 7-6 (12-10), 3-6, 6-4 loss for senior Christian Sigsgaard to the hands of Georgia’s Trent Bryde.
“The biggest takeaway we discussed after the invitational is how we carry ourselves when we get in those moments where we have opportunities to close out sets or matches,” Berque said. “We fell just a little short, but it’s perfect to be able to make an example of those things and discuss it to hopefully use to our benefit in upcoming matches.”
Berque said it was a learning moment for the team, which stayed in Florida after the invitational and will play Florida in Gainesville before heading to Dallas to play SMU this coming Saturday.
Sigsgaard 100% to start season
At the ITA Fall National Championships, Sigsgaard withdrew from the tournament and did not play in the USTA Futures tournament held in Austin the following week.
Berque said Sigsgaard suffered a sprained foot but is 100% to start the spring season.
“He just could barely walk,” Berque said. “I don’t think it was a serious injury, but he just needed a little time off. He’s definitely 100% now and has been for some time.”
January newcomer Eliot Spizzirri joins the team
Freshman Eliot Spizzirri signed with the Longhorns in the fall but didn’t wait for the 2020-21 season, instead opting to join the team in January. The signee from Connecticut was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time of his signing and hopes to jump in and immediately impact the team this season.
“I definitely expect him to be a lineup player in both singles and doubles,” Berque said.
Spizzirri went 1–2 in singles and 2–1 in doubles at the Miami Invitational.
Senior Yuya Ito wins Big 12 Player of the Week honors
The No. 2 player in the nation continued his run of collecting awards with a Big 12 Player of the Week honor after going undefeated in the Miami Invitational. He extended his singles winning streak to 14 with two wins, one coming over No. 12 Philip Henning of Georgia.
The win over Henning makes 10 of those last 14 wins against top-50 opponents. Ito also won two doubles matches alongside fellow senior Sigsgaard. Ito and Sigsgaard are the No. 4 doubles pairing in the nation.