Men's Tennis seeking consistent intensity
May 12, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
Texas Men’s Tennis coach Michael Center believes the schedule reveals the team, and this season for the Longhorns, he put together a bruiser.
Bouts with Virginia, Southern California and Ohio State -- Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in the country, respectively -- ushered the Longhorns into conference competition that also features No. 5 Baylor and No. 9 Texas A&M.
As the No. 13 national seed, UT has reached the NCAA round of 16 or better for five consecutive seasons, which includes national semifinal appearances in 2006 and 2009 and an appearance in the NCAA title match in 2008.
But the Longhorns head into this year’s national tournament seeking the consistency of their tradition. Losses to North Carolina and Oklahoma, a potential second round opponent, muddied the confidence of a team that took down No. 10 Kentucky and the rival Aggies in February.
For the first time in five seasons, UT opens away from Austin’s Penick-Allison Tennis Center. Even as the No. 1 seed in the region, the Longhorns travel to Norman, Okla., for the first and second rounds.
“I know that we have a good team. I know that we’ve been inconsistent, and we haven’t sustained our level as well as I would have liked at times,” Center said. “I think these guys have a sense of purpose. We’ve been a part of the final tournament several years in a row, and we don’t want to be the team that doesn’t advance.
“These guys have a lot of pride, and they want to finish strong.”
Injuries have certainly provoked UT’s inconsistency. Four starters were hobbled for significant portions of the season, and each match has presented a lineup puzzle for Center and assistant Ricardo Rubio.
In fact, nine different lineup combinations have been needed for the Longhorns’ 26 matches.
The 35th-ranked Corrie posted an 18-16 overall singles record this season, and he boasts victories over Kentucky’s fifth-ranked Eric Quigley, Illinois’ 15th-ranked Dennis Nevolo, Oklahoma’s 24th-ranked Ionut Beleleu and Michigan’s 21st-ranked Evan King.
The 48th-ranked Damico totaled a 22-11 overall singles record and a 15-9 mark in dual-match play. He counts singles victories over Texas Tech’s 26th-ranked Gonzalo Escobar, Oklahoma’s 41st-ranked Costin Paval and Michigan’s 55th-ranked Jason Jung.
“We’ve played an incredibly challenging schedule, and earned a No. 1 seed,” Center said. “this time of year, if you don’t win, the season is over. There are no secrets. They know if you lose, it’s over. I don’t have to say anything. It’s time to perform.”