Nineteenth-ranked Longhorns open the NCAA Championship on Saturday against Santa Clara in Stanford, Calif.
WHAT: No. 19 Texas (16-9) opens play in the NCAA Championship this weekend when it meets No. 39 Santa Clara (21-5). The match will mark the first meeting between the two schools in men’s tennis.
NCAA Championship First Round Matches (Round of 64) – Saturday, May 12
Texas vs. Santa Clara – 11 a.m. Central
(11) Stanford vs. Sacramento State – 2 p.m. Central
NCAA Championship Second Round Match (Round of 32) – Sunday, May 13
First round winners – 2 p.m. Central
WHERE: Taube Family Tennis Center – Stanford, Calif.
LIVE SCORING: Available at GoStanford.com
ITA RANKINGS UPDATE:
73. Soren Hess-Olesen (Texas)
102. Daniel Whitehead (Texas)
36. Chris Camillone/David Holiner (Texas)
78. Ben Chen/Daniel Whitehead (Texas)
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Texas received an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament field of 64 after posting a 16-9 overall record. The Longhorns notched wins over four opponents (Texas Tech, North Carolina, Auburn, Texas A&M) who were ranked in the ITA top-25 at on the day of the match. Santa Clara received an at-large bid out of the West Coast Conference. The Broncos are making their first NCAA Championship appearance.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Texas will make its 30th appearance at the NCAA Championship. UT scored its best finish at the NCAA Championship in 2008, when the Horns finished as the national runner-up after falling to Georgia in the NCAA title match.
Texas holds a 41-29 overall record in its 29 previous NCAA Championship appearances. Under 12th-year head coach Michael Center, Texas has reached the NCAA semifinals or better in three of the last six seasons (2006, 2008, 2009).
109 AND COUNTING
Texas has been featured in the top-25 of the ITA men’s tennis team rankings in 109 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 16-9 record and a No. 19 national ranking despite featuring a youthful roster that does not include any seniors. In fact, 56 of Texas’ 81 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 20-13 overall singles record into the NCAA Championship, including a 9-8 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 24-13 overall singles record this season, including a 10-9 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 28 singles wins and boasts a 16-5 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 12 of his last 16 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 403-154 (.724) overall record, including a 244-86 (.739) 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.