The Longhorns came into this year’s Big 12 tournament hungry.
After a bitter loss in last year’s tournament to rival Oklahoma, the Texas men didn’t want to accept anything less than a victory this time around. Despite a tough road to get there, the Longhorns claimed their first Big 12 title since 2010 on Sunday.
“They wanted a ring this year,” Texas head coach Michael Center said. “It’s hard to win this conference.”
The road to the Big 12 championship began with a semifinal match against Oklahoma on Saturday. It was the second match against the Sooners in two weeks and was the second year in a row the Longhorns would face them in the Big 12 Tournament, and Saturday’s match had no shortage of intensity and chippiness.
The Longhorns jumped out to an early lead by clinching the doubles point thanks to wins by the duo of junior Colin Markes and sophomore Yuya Ito, as well as juniors Leonardo Telles and Adrian Ortiz.
“I think (the doubles play) set the tone for the match,” Center said. “That put a lot of pressure on (Oklahoma).”
Singles play was no different, as the Longhorns continued to jump on the Sooners early and never looked back. After impressive wins by Ortiz and Ito, the match was ultimately clinched by No. 103 junior Rodrigo Banzer with a 6-2, 6-4 win at fifth singles.
After No. 5-seeded Baylor stunned No. 1-seeded TCU in the tournament, the championship match was set between the Bears and Texas, with the Longhorns getting to play for a title on their own turf.
The Longhorns didn’t get off to the start they wanted, though. Despite being point of strength all year, the men couldn’t secure the doubles point and fell down, 1-0, early. After later falling behind 2-1, Texas needed some momentum to get back in the match before it was too late. Texas’ prayer was answered by its No. 3 singles player, junior Harrison Scott.
In a year where he’s seen highs and lows, Scott gave the Longhorns perhaps their most important spark of the season with a hard-fought 7-6 (2), 7-5 win over Baylor’s Will Little to even the score at 2-2. A win by the No. 91-ranked Telles put the Longhorns ahead 3-2, and the match was ultimately clinched by Banzer with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory.
“(Banzer)’s been clutch for us,” Center said. “And he was clutch again today.”
The win snapped the Longhorns’ 10-match losing streak to Baylor at home. Texas has nearly two weeks off before it begins play in the NCAA tournament on May 11.