Texas Men’s Tennis Preview: Big 12 Championship
Fourth-seeded Longhorns take on host Texas A&M in Friday’s quarterfinals at the 2012 Big 12 Championship.
WHAT: No. 18 Texas (16-8, 2-3 Big 12) opens postseason play this weekend at the 2012 Big 12 Championship. The fourth-seeded Longhorns will take on fifth-seeded Texas A&M in Friday’s quarterfinals.
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTERFINALS
(4) Texas vs. (5) Texas A&M - Friday, April 27 – Noon Central
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP SEMIFINALS
(4) Texas/(5) Texas A&M vs. (1) Oklahoma – Saturday, April 28 – 11 a.m. Central
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Sunday, April 29 – Noon Central
WHERE: George P. Mitchell Tennis Center – College Station, Texas
LIVE SCORING: Available at AggieAthletics.com
LAST MEETING VS. TEXAS A&M: Behind a come-from-behind effort from junior Ben Chen, Texas pulled out a 4-3 victory over Texas A&M on April 14 in Austin.
ITA RANKINGS UPDATE:
70. Soren Hess-Olesen (Texas)
101. Daniel Whitehead (Texas)
36. Chris Camillone/David Holiner (Texas)
78. Ben Chen/Daniel Whitehead (Texas)
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Texas has reached the finals at the Big 12 Championship on seven occasions and at five of the last six Big 12 postseason tournaments. The Horns claimed the tournament titles in 1997, 1999, 2006 and in 2010 when the event was held at UT’s Penick-Allison Tennis Center. Last season, Texas fell to Texas A&M in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship in Waco.
FAMILIAR FOES ACROSS THE NET
Texas and Texas A&M have squared off three times this season at three different sites. The Aggies posted a 4-3 win on Feb. 10 at the Texas Cup in Houston. The Longhorns and Aggies squared off again just eight days later, as Texas notched a 4-1 win over Texas A&M in the consolation bracket at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship on Feb. 18 in Charlottesville, Va.
In the two teams’ most recent meeting, a conference match on April 14 in Austin, Ben Chen rallied from a 5-2 third-set deficit to defeat the Aggies’ Niall Angus and lift Texas to a 4-3 victory.
The Aggies are coached by former Texas All-American Steve Denton, who ranks third all-time at Texas in winning percentage (.794) and 20th in career singles wins (1976-79).
For the fifth time this season, a Texas player will encounter his brother on the opposing team. Texas freshman Jacoby Lewis is a brother of Texas A&M senior John Lewis, who is the oldest of six children (Jacoby is the third-oldest). The Lewis brothers did not go head-to-head in the previous three Texas-Texas A&M matches this season.
Notably, the father of the Lewis brothers, Walter Lewis, played football at The University of Alabama (1980-83) and was the starting quarterback in his final two seasons.
108 AND COUNTING
Texas has been featured in the top-25 of the ITA men’s tennis team rankings in 108 consecutive polls (the poll ranks the top-75 teams). This streak dates back to the 2006 preseason poll, when the Horns were ranked 22nd, which marks their lowest ranking during the streak. Texas peaked at No. 2 in the first three polls of the 2009 season.
CENTER OF EXCELLENCE
Texas’ streak of ITA top-25 appearances is emblematic of a particularly strong six-year stretch of Texas Tennis under the helm of 12th-year head coach Michael Center and 10th-year associate head coach Ricardo Rubio.
In the last six seasons, Texas has played for the national title (2008), reached the NCAA semifinals twice more (2006, 2009), captured three Big 12 regular-season titles (2006, 2008, 2010) and won two Big 12 tournament titles (2006, 2010). In addition, eight players have collected 13 ITA All-America honors.
YOUTH IS SERVED
Texas boasts a 16-8 record and a No. 18 national ranking despite featuring a youthful roster that does not include any seniors. In fact, 55 of Texas’ 80 individual dual-match singles victories (69%) have come from freshmen and sophomores.
HESS-OLESEN HOLDING DOWN TOP SPOT
Freshman Soren Hess-Olesen is the first true freshman to play primarily at No. 1 singles for the Longhorns since 2007, when Dimitar Kutrovsky posted a 10-7 mark at the top spot. The first-year player from Denmark, whose identical twin brother Esben plays tennis at North Carolina, brings a 20-12 overall singles record into Saturday’s match, including a 9-7 mark in dual-match play at No. 1 singles.
Hess-Olesen enjoyed a solid start to his collegiate career last fall, when he reached the finals at the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational and the Southwest Shootout. Hess-Olesen fell to teammate Daniel Whitehead in the finals of both events.
Hess-Olesen won his first three dual matches and notched a breakthrough win at No. 17 North Carolina (Feb. 5), where he knocked off the Tar Heels’ 30th-ranked Jose Hernandez to help the Horns to a 5-2 win in Chapel Hill. Hess-Olesen added a key victory in February at the ITA National Team Indoors, where he defeated Texas A&M’s 19th-ranked Alexis Klegou in straight sets to help Texas to a 4-1 win over the Aggies.
WHITEHEAD MAINTAINS CONSISTENCY
Junior Daniel Whitehead, UT’s winningest returning player this season, has maintained a steady presence in the top half of the singles lineup after posting a 17-5 dual-match singles record last season. The Sugar Land native holds a 23-13 overall singles record this season, including a 9-9 mark in dual matches at No. 2 singles.
Whitehead registered one of his most impressive dual matches of the season in January against the Red Raiders when he overpowered Texas Tech’s 23rd-ranked Gonzalo Escobar by a 6-1, 6-4 count in the Horns’ 4-0 win over the Red Raiders. His 61 career singles wins rank him 39th on UT’s all-time career singles wins list.
SITARAM ENJOYS SOPHOMORE SURGE
In one season, UT sophomore Sudanwa Sitaram has progressed from a part-time starter in the bottom half of the singles lineup to a force at the No. 3 singles position. The native of India notched 17 singles wins last season, including nine dual-match wins primarily at No. 6 singles. Nearing the end of his sophomore season, Sitaram has amassed 27 singles wins and boasts a 15-5 dual-match record (primarily at No. 3 singles).
One of his defeats in dual-match play came at the hands of the nation’s top-ranked player, Virginia’s Mitchell Frank, who needed a third-set match tiebreak to fend off Sitaram in February on the Cavaliers’ home courts.
Since then, Sitaram has won his 11 of his last 15 decisions. He posted a three-set win over Esben Hess-Olesen (identical twin brother of UT’s Soren Hess-Olesen) in the Horns’ 5-2 win on the Tar Heels’ home indoor courts. Sitaram notched two wins over Texas A&M’s 104th-ranked Junior Ore in a span of eight days.
Sitaram won in three sets on Feb. 10 at the Texas Cup and defeated Ore once more at the ITA National Team Indoors, where he won in straight sets to help Texas to victory. Sitaram added a key straight-set victory over Auburn’s Daniel Cochrane in February in the Horns’ 4-2 victory over the Tigers at the ITA National Team Indoors.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Texas has received dual-match contributions from throughout its roster, including the likes of juniors Alex Hilliard and Chris Camillone, sophomore David Holiner and freshmen Jacoby Lewis and Joey Swaysland.
Holiner holds a 14-5 mark in dual-match play. The redshirt sophomore posted victories over Texas A&M’s Jackson Withrow in the Longhorns’ first two matches against the Aggies before adding another win on April 14 against the Aggies’ Jeremy Efferding. Camillone registered a 6-4, 6-3 win over North Carolina’s Oystein Steiro at No. 5 singles in Texas’ 5-2 road win over the Tar Heels, and Hilliard chipped in a three-set win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Fernando Llorens.
Lewis scored his first career dual-match victory in straight sets against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Andrew Maingot, while Swaysland, a January arrival from Australia, defeated the Islanders’ Nathan Robinson in straight sets.
CENTER WINS 400TH MATCH
Head coach Michael Center recorded his 400th career victory on March 18 when the Horns posted a 6-0 win over UT-Permian Basin. With stops at his alma mater, Kansas (stints coaching the men’s and women’s teams), TCU and Texas, Center holds a 403-153 (.725) overall record, including a 244-85 (.742) mark in his 11-plus seasons at Texas.
The Manhattan, Kan., native was the 2007 USPTA National College Coach of the Year. He is a five-time ITA Regional Coach of the Year and an eight-time conference coach of the year.
THE 2011-12 LONGHORNS: Texas returns six letterwinners from the 2010-11 squad that reached the round of 32 at the NCAA Championships and the semifinals of the Big 12 Championships.
Junior Daniel Whitehead totaled a 12-2 fall singles record and capped the fall by winning the Southwest Shootout, where he defeated teammate Soren Hess-Olesen in the finals.
Whitehead posted a key victory at No. 2 singles against North Carolina (Feb. 5), as he helped spark Texas’ 5-2 road victory over the 17th-ranked Tar Heels. Junior Ben Chen returns after posting a 6-5 fall singles record, and sophomore David Holiner tallied an 8-3 fall singles record.
Sophomore Sudanwa Sitaram registered a 9-6 fall singles record. At Virginia (Feb. 3), Sitaram took the Cavaliers’ top-ranked Mitchell Frank to a third set match tiebreak, where he fell by a 10-3 count. He returned to defeat North Carolina’s Esben Hess-Olesen, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6 (2) in the Horns’ victory in Chapel Hill.
Junior Chris Camillone notched a 6-5 fall singles record and posted a 6-4, 6-3 win over North Carolina’s Oystein Steiro in UT’s win over the Tar Heels. Texas also welcomes the return of junior Alex Hilliard, who won a pair of matches in January at the Key Biscayne Invitational.
Freshmen Soren Hess-Olesen posted a 10-4 fall singles record while reaching the singles finals at a pair of fall events, the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational and the Southwest Shootout. Hess-Olesen posted a 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-2 win over North Carolina’s 30th-ranked Jose Hernandez in Texas’ 5-2 win over the Tar Heels. Freshman Jacoby Lewis won four fall singles matches and won the consolation draw at the Southwest Shootout.
Newcomer Lloyd Glasspool posted a pair of singles victories in his collegiate debut in January at the Key Biscayne Invitational. The Englishman notched a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win over North Carolina’s Joey Burkhardt at fourth singles before adding a victory against Texas A&M (Feb. 10). Texas also welcomes Australian freshman Joey Swaysland, who made his collegiate debut at Rice and picked up his first win at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
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