It’s “win or go home” for No. 9 Texas as they head to Norman, Oklahoma, for the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championships.
With the regular season in the books, Texas is ready to make a splash in tournament. The Longhorns didn’t end the year the way they hoped to, suffering a 4-1 loss to No. 4 TCU on Saturday that dropped them to the No. 4 spot in the Big 12.
“I thought our doubles was better against TCU, and we competed well,” head coach Michael Center said. “We had chances to take some of those sets and extend the match, but TCU earned the win.”
Texas is now shifting its focus to a rematch with the fifth-seeded Sooners on Thursday at 10 a.m. The Longhorns can expect a sea of crimson in the stands as Oklahoma plays host to the three-day tournament.
Texas defeated an injured Sooners team in Norman on March 31, edging the rival in a 4-3 nail biter. Oklahoma is now back at full-strength after senior Andrew Harris, who was All Big 12 in singles in the 2015-2016 season, returned last week from an injury that kept him out since February.
The late addition comes at a perfect time for the Sooners after finishing the season with losses in five of their last seven matches — their worst stretch of the season.
But the Big 12 Championships is an entirely different terrain, and Oklahoma reigns supreme. The Sooners are winners of three of the last five tournaments.
“We’re excited to go up and see what we can do against a very tough Oklahoma team with Andrew Harris back in its lineup,” Center said. “OU is an elite team, and this will be a great challenge for us.”
The winner faces a short turnaround as they’ll play the first-seeded Horned Frogs on Friday. Despite posting a record of 2-3 in conference play this season, the Longhorns have high hopes of winning their first Big 12 title since they hosted the tournament in 2010.
The path is in no way an easy one. The Big 12 holds five of the top 15 teams in the country. But the Longhorns are no strangers to the big stage. Texas boasts regular season wins over No. 2 Ohio State, No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 10 California.
It’s this experience that the Longhorns plan to lean on as they make a postseason push.
“We’ve seen it all at this point,” Center said. “It’s a real challenge every time out there in a Big 12 match, but when it’s time to compete, we’ll be ready for whatever comes our way.”