Men's Tennis preview: Texas A&M
WHAT: No. 7 Texas (18-4, 4-1 Big 12) hosts No. 23 Texas A&M (11-9, 2-3) in the State Farm Lone Star Showdown. The match marks the regular-season finale for both teams, and a Texas win would clinch at least a share of the Big 12 Conference regular-season title for the Longhorns.
WHERE: Penick-Allison Tennis Center - Austin, Texas
WHEN: Saturday, April 19 - 4 p.m. Central - Texas' senior class will be honored before the match at approximately 3:50 p.m. Should the preceding Texas-Baylor women's tennis match delay the start of the Texas-Texas A&M men's match, the Senior Day festivities will be pushed back accordingly.
LAST MEETING WITH TEXAS A&M: The Horns and Aggies matched up earlier this season in Houston when the two schools renewed the Texas Cup, a series of annual, neutral-site non-conference matches. Texas defeated Texas A&M by a 4-0 count on Feb. 8 at The Downtown Club at The Met.
THE STATE FARM LONE STAR SHOWDOWN: Texas A&M leads the 2007-08 State Farm Lone Star Showdown standings by a 7.0-5.5 margin. The winner of Saturday's match earns one point for its school in the SFLSS standings. Texas has won the men's tennis point in two of the previous three SFLSS matches.
THE 2008 LONGHORNS: Texas kept its Big 12 title hopes alive with a key victory on Wednesday, April 16 at Baylor. The Longhorns scored their first regular-season win on the Bears' home courts since 1999 when they dealt the Bears a 4-3 defeat behind a victory in the doubles session and singles wins from freshman Ed Corrie, sophomore Dimitar Kutrovsky and senior Luis Diaz Barriga. A Texas victory over Texas A&M and a Baylor victory over Texas Tech on April 20 would lock up the top seed and a first-round bye for UT at next week's Big 12 Championship in College Station.
Kutrovsky, who boasts a 26-9 overall singles record, ranks 17th in the latest ITA singles rankings and likely will climb even higher in the next rankings release after defeating Baylor's eighth-ranked Lars Poerschke on Wednesday in Waco. Kutrovsky has defeated five top-25 singles opponents in the last six weeks and is poised to make his second consecutive appearance in the 64-player singles draw at the NCAA Championship.
Newcomers Kellen Damico and Ed Corrie have excelled early on in their Longhorn careers. Damico won singles titles at the HEB Baylor Fall Invitational and the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational in his first semester, and Corrie claimed the Texas Invitational in November. Damico has twice been named the Big 12 Conference Men's Tennis Player of the Week.
The 45th-ranked Corrie improved to 5-0 in Big 12 play with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Baylor's 113th-ranked David Galic on Wednesday. He enters Saturday's match with a 28-8 overall singles mark. The 37th-ranked Damico holds a 3-2 mark in Big 12 play and a 28-13 overall record. Corrie and Damico are ranked sixth in the latest ITA doubles rankings release.
Senior Luis Diaz Barriga checks in at No. 115 in the ITA singles rankings with a 25-5 overall singles record. Diaz Barriga clinched Texas' victory over Baylor with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 win over the Bears' 96th-ranked Dominik Mueller.
Under head coach Michael Center, the 2007 USPTA National College Coach of the Year, Texas returns all 10 letterwinners from the 2007 squad that registered a 20-9 record and reached the round of 16 at the NCAA Championship. Texas reached the finals of the Big 12 Championship for a second consecutive season after defeating Texas Tech and upsetting Oklahoma State in the opening rounds.
Center collected his 300th career victory against Alabama. Now in his 17th year as a head coach, Center holds a 311-124 (.715) overall record and a 152-56 (.731) mark at Texas.
THE 2008 AGGIES: Texas A&M is led by head coach Steve Denton, a former University of Texas All-America standout (1976-79) now in his second year at the helm of the Aggies' program. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) will induct the former Longhorn into its Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame next month during the NCAA Championship in Tulsa, Okla.
Junior Conor Pollock ranks 28th in the latest ITA singles rankings and brings a 19-14 overall singles record into Saturday's match. Pollock was a singles finalist at the 2007 ITA South Central Regional Championship played last fall at UT's Penick-Allison Tennis Center.
Just as UT freshmen Ed Corrie and Kellen Damico have played vital roles in Texas' 2008 success, the same can be said for Texas A&M freshmen Wil Spencer and Austin Krajicek. The duo joins Pollock to solidify the top half of the Aggies' singles lineup. Spencer enters Saturday's match with a 2-3 mark in Big 12 play at second singles, while Krajicek holds a 4-1 mark in league play at third singles.