Menís and Womenís Tennis earn NCAA berths
If the Jeopardy category was "2007 Texas Men's and Women's Tennis," the answer -- in the form of a question, of course -- would be:
What is young?
Women's coach Patty Fendick-McCain had two seniors, while men's coach Michael Center had none. His only senior on the roster was Hubert Chodkiewicz, who was redshirting this season to enable him to prepare for an exhausting medical school exam.
"At the beginning of the year, I had to look around and remind myself who was playing for us," Center said.
The 30th-ranked women lost in the NCAA tournament's second round to eighth-ranked Southern California by a 4-0 count in Los Angeles, while the 11th-ranked men were upset in the round of 16 by 27th-ranked North Carolina State, 4-3, in Athens, Ga.
The women, who were making their 25th appearance in the NCAAs, winning the national title in 1993 and 1995 and recording a runner-up finish in 2005, ended the season at 16-10. They did claim a share of their eighth Big 12 Conference regular-season title -- their first under Fendick-McCain. The women were ousted by Baylor in the Big 12 Championship finals.
The men, likewise, were performing in their 25th NCAA tournament and advanced to the round of 16 for a second consecutive year. Under Center, the Horns were tied for third in 2006, losing to eventual national champ Pepperdine in the semifinals. The men wound up this season at 20-9.
"It was disappointing to not be at our best (in the N.C. State match)," Center said. "But give them credit, they have a nice team and they played well."
Fendick-McCain's team featured their very own "Fab Four" with freshmen Vanja Corovic, Stephanie Davison, Sarah Lancaster and Jane Pringle, who joined the team in January.
The "Fab Four" recorded an incredible 32-3 singles mark in Big 12 Conference play.
Corovic, who played No. 1 singles, was the Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year. She was the first UT Freshman of the Year since Petra Dizdar, who along with Ristine Olson were the senior anchors of the 2007 Longhorns.
The UT women traveled to the home courts of six of the top 10 teams in the country, challenging Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, Stanford, Cal and USC during this season.
Center had his own freshman standout at No. 1 in Dimitar Kutrovsky from Bulgaria and also got strong play from freshman Josh Zavala of Amarillo. Sophomore transfer Jonah Kane-West, who left Tulane after Hurricane Katrina, and junior Luis Diaz Barriga, sparked the successful season for the Longhorns. Sophomore Miguel Reyes Varela missed almost half the season because of a knee injury.
"I'm really happy overall," said Center of the 2007 season, which was his seventh as head coach.
"The guys competed well all year long," he continued. "I can tell you that I really enjoyed this group. It was fun to watch them grow during the season. I'm disappointed we lost when we did in the NCAAs."
Center admitted when the team gathered in the fall following the grand 2006 season he wasn't sure what to expect with three key performers from that national semifinal team having moved on.
"I liked the attitude from the start," Center began. "I knew with the attitude the team had and with the competitiveness they showed, we had a chance to have a good season."
The Longhorns coach, a former Big 8 singles champion at Kansas, pointed to a February trip to Tulsa for contests with the Golden Hurricane and Cal as a key to the season.
"That's when Diaz Barriga joined the lineup," Center said. "He played well and the team played well. Then, we had success against Duke and Virginia in March."
"This was one of the most enjoyable seasons for me as a coach," Center concluded. "This was a group of young men who were fun to be around all the time.
"I know they gave me all they had each time they were on the court and that's all any coach can ask of his team."