AUSTIN, Texas – With state bragging rights on the line, a rally by the 23rd-ranked Texas A&M men’s tennis team came up short in a nailbiter versus seventh-ranked Texas, 4-3, in the State Farm Lone Star Showdown between the two rivals Saturday night at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center.
“It was a war from start to finish,” said Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton of his Aggies who have had nine matches decided by a 4-3 count this season. “It was a good college tennis match in a great atmosphere. We just came up a little bit short. In my opinion, Texas is one of the seven favorites to win NCAAs. We stepped it up against a very talented team today and will take a lot of confidence away from this match despite the loss.”
In a nearly four-hour standoff, the Aggies (11-10, 2-4) captured the doubles point for the fourth-straight match as A&M’s No. 22-ranked doubles combination of Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) and Austin Krajicek (Brandon, Fla.) soundly took care of sixth-ranked Ed Corrie and Kellen Damico, 8-4, at the No. 1 line. It marked Pollock and Krajicek’s biggest doubles victory of the season as the duo improved to an undefeated 9-0 in dual match play. They have now won three-straight against Big 12 Conference foes leading into postseason action.
UT’s Josh Zavala and Dimitar Kutrovsky would later tie things up with an 8-4 victory at No. 3 doubles which set up the deciding match at the No. 2 position. A&M’s Wil Spencer (Ponce de Leon, Fla.) and Mike Beatty (Cincinnati, Ohio) upset No. 35-ranked Miguel Reyes Varela and Luis Diaz Barriga, 8-6, which clinched the doubles point leading into singles. Spencer and Beatty raised their doubles record to an unblemished 4-0 overall and 3-0 in league play.
“We played great in the doubles,” Denton said. “Mike Beatty and Wil Spencer played so well as did Conor Pollock and Austin Krajicek. You can ask any coach in the country and they will tell you that Texas has one of the best doubles lineups top-to-bottom. We fought tooth and nail on their turf and came away with the doubles point.”
The Longhorns (19-4, 5-1) countered with three-straight singles victories at the No. 6, No. 2 and No. 5 lines which put them ahead, 3-1. Sophomore Chris Chirico (Philadelphia, Pa.) kept A&M within reach of UT with a straight-set victory over Texas’ Reyes Varela, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 4. He extended his current win streak to two matches.
Top player Conor Pollock, ranked No. 28 nationally in the ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings, used veteran poise to bounce back from a 5-7 deficit in the first set to win a second-set tiebreaker and force a three-setter with No. 17-ranked Dimitar Kutrovsky at the No. 1 line. The junior all-conference performer cruised to a 6-4 win in the third set to pick up his 20th overall victory of the season and to even the playing field at three-all.
Once again, it came down to the very end as freshman Wil Spencer battled UT’s Diaz Barriga, ranked No. 115 nationally, in the last match standing at No. 3. Spencer pulled off a 7-5 second-set victory despite cramping in the Texas heat. Barriga later sealed the match with a 6-2 win in the third as the Longhorns clinched at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title.
“Conor played like a champion today,” Denton said. “He won a tough tiebreaker in the second and it was just a great effort to give us a chance to win the match. Chris Chirico played his best tennis of the season, while Wil Spencer kept fighting and fighting. He stayed in there and battled in the second set to give us another chance, but didn’t quite have enough in the end. Wil was such a warrior and overall, the whole team fought so hard.”
Seeding and pairings for the upcoming 2008 Big 12 Tennis Championships on April 24-27 at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station will be released by the league office on Sunday night after the conclusion of regular-season match play.
“We are poised for a breakout and a really big win,” Denton said. “At times, I thought it would be today, but we know we are still capable of doing it and against top-ranked teams. I was so proud of the team’s effort today. It just goes to show how much we have improved and the character of our team. Those are the kind of things you want happening with your team as you head into the Big 12 and NCAA Championships.”
(7) TEXAS 4, (23) TEXAS A&M 3
April 19, 2008
Penick-Allison Tennis Center
at Austin, Texas
No. 1 (28) Conor Pollock (Texas A&M) def. (17) Dimitar Kutrovsky (Texas), 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-4.
No. 2 (45) Ed Corrie (Texas) def. Austin Krajicek (Texas A&M), 6-4, 6-4.
No. 3 (115) Luis Diaz Barriga (Texas) def. Wil Spencer (Texas A&M), 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.
No. 4 Chris Chirico (Texas A&M) def. Miguel Reyes Varela (Texas), 6-4, 6-4.
No. 5 Milan Mihailovic (Texas) def. Matt Bain (Texas A&M), 7-5, 6-1.
No. 6 Josh Zavala (Texas) def. Kayvon Karimi (Texas A&M), 6-3, 6-2.
No. 1 (22) Krajicek-Pollock (Texas A&M) def. (6) Corrie-Damico (Texas), 8-4.
No. 2 Spencer-Mike Beatty (Texas A&M) def. (35) Reyes Varela-Diaz Barriga (Texas), 8-6.
No. 3 Zavala-Kutrovsky (Texas) def. Chirico-Bain (Texas A&M), 8-4.
ORDER OF FINISH
Doubles: 1, 3, 2
Singles: 6, 2, 5, 4, 1, 3*