Men’s Tennis remains “Center-ed” as NCAA Regionals loom
Buoyed by a victory against Texas A&M in their regular season finale, the Longhorns rode the crest of that triumph to a Big 12 Championsip finals duel against Baylor.
However, the Bears nudged Texas in the title match, 4-2.
"It was disappointing because I thought we had some real opportunities to put them away," said Coach Michael Center. "Unfortunately, it just didn't happen."
Center's squad was aiming for their fourth Big 12 Conference Championship crown, winning in 1997, '99 and 2006.
It was not to be.
UT shared the 2008 regular-season championship, utilizing that Senior Day win against A&M, as well as a mid-April triumph in Waco, ending a nine-year regular-season losing streak in the Bears' lair.
"We've shown heart and determination," said Center, who in his eighth year at the helm recorded his 300th career victory Feb. 15 against Alabama.
Center, whose UT squads have made four trips to the NCAA Round of 16 (2002, '03, '06 and '07) and advanced to the semifinals in 2006, welcomed back all 10 letterwinners from the 2007 team that won 20 matches.
In addition, Center was selected the USPTA National College Coach of the Year last season.
Sophomore Dimitar Kutrovsky, who was recognized as the Men's Tennis Player of the Week in early April, has been a key to the team's success.
Kutrovsky, who enjoyed a streak of dismissing five top 25-ranked opponents in a six-week span, moved to a career-best ranking of No. 10 last month.
Luis Diaz Barriga, one of the four seniors on this year's team and tied with Kutrovsky for the team lead with 26 regular-season dual match singles wins, captured the clinching match in the regular-season encounter with Baylor last month.
Center praised seniors Diaz Barriga and Milan Mihailovic.
"Those two guys are great competitors," Center began. "They have won a lot of matches for us. They are tenacious."
Freshmen Ed Corrie and Kellen Damico also have excelled from the outset of the season.