Tumbling into a hole early by losing the doubles competition is nothing new for the Texas men’s tennis team. But experience doesn’t necessarily make the climb out any easier.
It just looked that way Saturday. The Longhorns, No. 2 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, ceded the doubles point to South Florida but won four straight singles matches — and were ahead in the other two — for a 4-1 NCAA regional victory at the Texas Tennis Center.
The Longhorns (25-3) will play host to California in the round of 16, now called a super regional by the NCAA, next Saturday at 1 p.m.
“It got a little hairy after the doubles,” said Bruce Berque, the Longhorns’ interim head coach. “But I think we were confident that if the guys came out and competed hard on every court, we’d still have a chance to win. But there is a little less room for error.”
Texas is 4-3 this season when it starts off by losing the doubles. There is little time for pep talks between the doubles and singles competition, but Berque made a short one.
“It’s usually the same kind of speech,” he said. “I remind them that it’s only about 14 percent of the match. It’s a group of four seniors and two juniors in singles, so this is not their first time losing a doubles point and winning a big match.”
One of those seniors, Rodrigo Banzer, the Longhorns’ No. 6 singles player Saturday, secured the match by beating Ivan Yatsuk in a second-set tiebreaker 6-1, 7-6.
Yatsuk was a star for a resilient USF (18-8) on Friday. The Bulls, No. 37 in the ITA rankings, beat No. 23 Alabama 4-3, but not before enduring two rain delays totaling five hours and a rush-hour drive by minivan from the Texas Tennis Center on campus to indoor courts at the UT Golf Club on the western edge of Austin while hearing about flash flood warnings on the radio.
At the indoor courts, USF and Alabama found a leaky roof that restricted competition to three courts at the start, and later four, instead of the usual six.
Yatsuk, playing No. 6 singles for the Bulls, clinched the final point that sent them to the second round against Texas. Yatsuk, paired with Jakub Wojcik, also secured the doubles point for USF in a tiebreaker.
Coach Ashley Fisher said that in a way, his team enjoyed the experience Friday.
“We talk every day about how these defining moments of adversity are a way to get better,” Fisher said before the match against Texas.
The Bulls didn’t look like victims of a tough Friday as they began the match against UT by prevailing in two of the three doubles contests.
The Bulls’ No. 1 team of Alberto Barroso-Camp and Pierre Luquet, ranked 88th by the ITA, beat Harrison Scott and Christian Sigsgaard, a team rated No. 5 in the nation, 6-3.
The Texas No. 3 doubles team of Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito beat Chase Ferguson and Sergio Gomez Montesa to briefly even the doubles competition.
But USF secured the point with a 6-4 win by its No. 2 team, Yatsuk and Wojcik, against Colin Markes and Leonardo Telles.
The Longhorns asserted themselves by winning the first set in each of the six singles matches. Then Markes gave Texas its first win by beating Montesa 6-2, 6-3. Scott was next, dispatching Wojcik 6-1, 6-4, putting Texas in the overall lead.
Ito padded that lead with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Ferguson, and Banzer then sent Texas to the super regional. Ito was the only Longhorn to win in singles and doubles Saturday.
“It was a tough match,” Ito said. “They played great in the doubles. They started well with great energy. Any time you lose the doubles, as a team it puts a lot of pressure on us. So you have to then get as many points as possible as soon as possible.”