By Steve Lansdale
LAWRENCE, Kan. — The University of Texas carries a well-earned reputation as one of the premier schools in the country for men’s and women’s tennis. The Longhorns showed over the weekend that they remain among the nation’s elite programs by finishing second in the men’s and women’s Big 12 Championship in Lawrence, Kansas.
The No. 2 men’s team lost, 4-1, to No. 8 Baylor in Sunday’s final. The loss dropped the Longhorns’ record to 23-3 this season; all three setbacks came against teams currently ranked among the nation’s top 10.
“It’s disappointing not to be able to win the last match of the season after such a fantastic season for the guys,” interim head coach Bruce Berque said. “I’m proud of the way they competed on every court, and we were tough to put away today. The doubles point was pivotal, as it often is when two top-10 teams match up. We just didn't execute as well as Baylor did in key moments.
“But I'm definitely proud of the way the team has played all year long, and hopefully this will make them even hungrier for that NCAA tournament.”
The No. 6 pair of senior Harrison Scott and junior Christian Sigsgaard kicked off the match by blanking the nation’s top-ranked doubles duo of Sven Lah and Jimmy Bendeck, 6-0. But junior Yuya Ito and freshman Chih Chi Huang lost to Baylor’s Johannes Schretter and Constantin Frantzen, 6-2, and Colin Markes and Leonardo Telles fell, 6-4, to Baylor’s Batias Soto and Will Little, giving the doubles point to the Bears.
The Longhorns evened the score when Scott, ranked No. 53, took down No. 75 Little, 6-4, 6-2, at the No. 4 singles spot. But Baylor’s No. 49 Soto edged UT’s No. 7 Ito, 7-5, 7-6 (4), and Adrian Boitan beat Telles, 7-5, 6-4, to give Baylor the victory.
The Longhorns now get a week off while preparing to host an NCAA Tournament Regional May 3-5 at the Texas Tennis Center.
On the women’s side, No. 7 Texas fell, 4-2, to No. 20 Kansas in a match that was moved indoors because of high winds.
The Jayhawks jumped out to an early lead by claiming the doubles point. UT’s No. 59 tandem of Fernanda Labraña and Dijana Spasojevic fell, 6-2, to the No. 71 pair of Anastasia Rychagova and Sonia Smagina, while KU’s Malkia Ngounoue and Maria Toran Ribas put away Petra Granic and Bojana Markovic for the Longhorns.
The loss dropped Texas, the outright regular-season champion in the Big 12 for the second straight year, to 18-4, and snapped a 12-match winning streak. Despite falling short this season, Texas has won 10 Big 12 Conference Tournament championships.
No. 53 Granic got UT’s first point in the match by rolling KU’s Ploburng Plipuech, 6-1, 6-3, in the No. 3 singles spot. For Granic, the victory was her ninth consecutive singles victory and improved her spring singles record to 15-1.
Kansas responded with a pair of straight-sets victories, as Smaginaknocked off Markovic, 6-4, 6-0, at the No. 4 singles and Nina Khmelnitckaia topped Labraña, 6-2, 6-4, at No. 5.
The Longhorns narrowed the deficit to 3-2 when No. 37 Anna Turati beat No. 104 Janet Koch, 6-2, 6-3, at the No. 2 singles spot. The victory was Turati’s 17th in a row in singles, and boosted her spring dual-match singles record to a glistening 18-2.
Ribas sealed the victory for the Jayhawks with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Texas senior Katie Poluta at No. 6 singles.
The bracket for the upcoming 2019 NCAA Div. I Women’s Tennis Championship will be announced during the selection show at 5:30 p.m. (Central time) Monday, April 29. Texas is expected to be a host site for first and second rounds of the NCAA Championship May 3-5.