Men's Tennis preview: Big 12 Championship
WHAT: No. 6 Texas (19-4, 5-1 Big 12) begins postseason play this weekend at the 2008 Big 12 Championship.
WHERE: George P. Mitchell Tennis Center - College Station, Texas
WHEN: Friday, April 25 through Sunday, April 27 - Texas has earned a first-round bye as the tournament's top seed and will play its first match on Saturday, April 26 against fourth-seeded Texas Tech or fifth-seeded host Texas A&M at noon Central. A Texas semifinal victory would put the Horns in the finals on Sunday at 1 p.m. Central.
LAST YEAR AT THE BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP: Third-seeded Texas held off sixth-seeded Texas Tech, 4-2, in the quarterfinals before upsetting second-seeded Oklahoma State by a 4-1 count in the semifinals. Top-seeded Baylor defeated Texas by a 4-1 count in the finals.
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Texas has reached the finals of the Big 12 Championship on five occasions and at each of the last two Big 12 postseason tournaments. The Horns claimed the tournament titles in 1997, 1999 and most recently in 2006 at Baylor. This marks the fourth time that Texas has been the tournament's top seed.
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. Texas clinched a share of the Big 12 regular-season title on April 19 when it rallied for a 4-3 victory over Texas A&M on Senior Day at UT's Penick-Allison Tennis Center.
Kutrovsky, who boasts a 26-10 overall singles record, reached a career-high No. 10 rank in the latest ITA singles rankings. 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 46th-ranked Corrie finished Big 12 play with a perfect 6-0 mark after defeating Texas A&M's Austin Krajicek on April 19. He enters Saturday's match with a 29-8 overall singles mark. The 38th-ranked Damico holds a 3-2 mark in Big 12 play and a 28-13 overall record. Corrie and Damico are ranked 10th in the latest ITA doubles rankings release.
Senior Luis Diaz Barriga checks in at No. 119 in the ITA singles rankings with a 26-5 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 and clinched UT's win over Texas A&M with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 win over the Aggies' Wil Spencer.
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 312-124 (.716) overall record and a 153-56 (.732) mark at Texas.