Solid travelers: No. 6 Longhorns down Tulsa, Arkansas, behind Ito’s strong outing

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Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

The sixth-ranked Texas men’s tennis team, who moved up two spots in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, began their month-long away stretch by downing Tulsa 6-1 on Friday in Oklahoma and then dispatching Arkansas
6-1 on Sunday.

Tulsa

Just two weeks ago, after the Longhorns’ win over UTSA, head coach Michael Center reiterated the team’s need for energy early in matches.

“This group is very talented, but can be quiet at times,” Center said after the UTSA match. “We need to raise our energy level and come out swinging.”

But energy was never an issue in Tulsa as the Longhorns engaged in their first true road match of the season — a 6-1 victory over the Golden Hurricane. The match victory avenged their last loss to Tulsa, coming in January 2017 when the then-No. 4 Longhorns were upset 4-3, being the most recent loss in a series the Longhorns have historically dominated, now 18–2 all-time.

No. 14 Yuya Ito won the last two sets to complete a comeback over Tulsa’s Joshua Goodger (2-6, 6-3, 6-3). It was Ito’s 12th-straight singles win and furthered the Longhorns’ overall lead to 5-0 as the teams played out the remaining singles matches, even with the outcome decided.

“In the first set (Goodger) played really well,” Ito said of his match. “(Tulsa) had the advantage of being at home. I just tried to pick up the rhythm and keep on competing, being aggressive.”

Arkansas

The Longhorns stayed the night in Tulsa, then turned around and headed to Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday and practiced in preparation for the Sunday match against the Razorbacks, who came in 8–2 and having not lost at home yet.

“College tennis is tough when you have two away matches in one week,” Ito said of the quick turnaround. “I’m starting to get used to it in my third year, but for freshmen it’s definitely tough.”

The Longhorns ended the Razorbacks’ home dominance as Ito built upon his strong start in Tulsa by dominating his two matches, winning 6-2 over Pedro and Jose Alonso with his doubles partner Chih Chi Huang, while winning over Josh Howard-Tripp 6-3, 6-2.

Next up, the Longhorns will spend two days back in Austin practicing indoors before they head to Chicago, Illinois, to play in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor Championships. Texas did not make it to the tournament last year, and for Ito, this year’s appearance is an opportunity to show the team’s skill amongst the top teams in the country.

“It’s gonna be tough, with the top 16 teams in the country,” Ito said. “The key for us is to start well in the doubles ... That’s one of the biggest points for us.”