Men's Tennis hitting their stride, Women's Tennis looking for their pace
· 2007-08 Men's Tennis: |
As February was drawing to a close, both the UT tennis teams gave Texas fans every reason to think the best was yet to come as the season moved toward the Big 12 Championships and then the NCAAs.
The women whipped No. 16 William & Mary, 5-2, but were nudged by fifth-ranked Florida in Austin, while the men ripped Rice in Houston.
"Rice has a great team and they really pushed us," said Coach Michael Center. "Our guys were ready to play and I continue to be impressed with how they play on the road."
That victory for the fifth-ranked men improved their record to 9-1 with a visit from Michigan and a trip to the University of Virginia before the end of the month.
The split with William & Mary and Florida moved the 27th-ranked women to 4-2.
"This (the William and Mary match) was a big test for us," said Patty Fendick-McCain, who is in her third year at the helm of the women's team.
"We had a chance to play a top 20 team and we rose to the occasion," she said.
Freshmen Maggie Mello and Caroline Larsson played well against William & Mary, as did San Antonio senior Courtney Zauft.
"Courtney put on a clinic," Fendick-McCain said of her performance. "She has worked very hard on her game and she was brilliant."
The UT coach also had praise for the freshman tandem of Mello and Larsson, as well as Sarah Lancaster.
"Mello and Larsson are putting points on the board for us every week," Fendick-McCain said. "Sarah has stepped up her game and is playing aggressively."
The Longhorns, who lost in late January at Arizona State, are looking to take the next step in the NCAAs. They reached their fourth consecutive regional final, falling to USC in the round of 32 a year ago. The women also claimed a share of the Big 12 title in 2007.
"We've been put to the test against some good teams already this year," Fendick-McCain said. "I'm really proud of these ladies."
Same could be said of his men by Coach Center, who was rewarded with his 300th career victory in a 4-0 decision against Alabama in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in mid-February in Seattle.
Center, who is in his eighth season at Texas, also was able to enjoy his team's 4-1 blistering of then sixth-ranked USC in the consolation round of the event in Seattle.
"Great win over a legitimate top-five team," the coach said of the victory against the Trojans. "We showed a lot of heart and determination, became aggressive and got the win."
The Longhorns, who have won 72 percent of their matches under Center, are aiming for a spot in the final four as they were in 2006. That team ended with the school's highest national ranking at No. 3 after losing in the national semifinals to Pepperdine, the eventual national champ.
In 2007, the men's team reached the round of 16 for the fourth time under the guidance of Center, who was the USPTA National Coach of the Year last season. The Longhorns also reached the finals of the Big 12 Championship for a second straight year in 2007.
Ten returning lettermen have helped the Horns get off to their great start in 2008. In addition, Kellen Damico and Ed Corrie, a pair of newcomers, also have made their presence felt. Damico and senior Luis Diaz Barriga are ranked No. 8 in doubles.
"We've shown a lot of heart and determination," said Center, reflecting on the first two months of 2008.