The Norman Transcript
Here’s the thing.
You should be at the Headington Family Tennis Center at noon today. It’s right behind John Crain Field, adjacent to Lloyd Noble Center’s parking lot, and you should be there.
That’s when the Oklahoma and Texas men meet in a Big 12 tournament semifinal.
The Sooners are the nation’s 14th-ranked team and the Longhorns are No. 19, and one of two things is going to happen.
OU will win, and what member of the Sooner Nation doesn’t want to watch Texas lose? Or, Texas will win, and that will be disappointing, and still you will have made yourself aware of the wonderful drama that is good college tennis.
The men are the last Sooners standing because Texas knocked off the OU women Friday, winning 4-1, which was indeed the dual’s final score and a complete misnomer at the same time.
If you were there, you know. Because if you were there, in the seats alongside OU’s women’s basketball team and coaches, several members of the volleyball team and some golfers, too, you saw how close the Sooners were to making it 3-3 and forcing the doubles point to be decided. Your head was on a swivel, watching six different courts, experiencing how everything can change so fast.
“There’s always something to watch,” Sooner women’s coach David Mullins said.
Don’t worry about Mullins’ team. It’s been bounced from the conference tournament but the season is not over.
A shoe-in for the NCAA tournament, it’s only a matter of location and seed. It will have another chance.
Still, you need to understand Friday afternoon’s drama because it’s worth understanding.
Four singles matches were already in the book and Texas had won three of them, and even a couple of those were great ones, with Texas’ Breaunna Addison, ranked 33rd in the nation, pushed to a 7-5 second set by OU’s Whitney Ritchie, a junior out of Bishop McGuinness; as well as OU’s Abbi Melrose, in the No. 5 singles match, coming from well down in the first set to post a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Texas’ Lina Padegimaite.
So, four matches were done and the Longhorns were up 3-1 with the Sooners having to win the last two singles matches going — the No. 1 and No. 3 matches — to force the deciding doubles point to be decided.
At No. 1, Texas Aerial Ellis, the nation’s 39th-ranked player, was up a set on OU’s Hermon Brhane, the nation’s 59th-ranked player.
At No. 3, Texas’ Elizabeth Begley, though she’d evened the match at a set apiece with OU’s Mia Lancaster, was down 3-0 in the third.
As Lancaster took control of the final set at No. 3, Brhane was fighting to force a third set with Ellis, something she eventually did, dominating a second-set tiebreaker 7-1.
Soon, Lancaster was up 5-2 in the third on the court next to Ellis and Brhane. The thinking was that match was in the bag for the Sooners.
Could Brhane finish off her rally in the No. 1 match? If so, the Red River rivalry would go the distance.
Mostly, it was friends and family in the seats, and still everybody was yelling after every point, even in the midst of an ongoing point on the other court. And nobody was yelling more than the players, also after every point.
Could Brhane finish Ellis?
Despite cramping up, she was well on her way, eventually leading the third set 5-1. Though her body was trying to quit, she was about to outlast Ellis.
Yet, one court over, Lancaster was fading. Her 5-2 lead became 5-4 and if Begley won those games honestly, Lancaster was about to do her all kinds of favors with a series of unforced errors in the next three.
In the end, down 6-5 in the third, had Lancaster forced one more deuce, the matches might have ended simultaneously. Instead, here’s what happened.
Lancaster hit one more ball into the net on match point, giving Begley a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory.
At that moment, the dual ended. Also, at that precise moment, up 5-1 in the third, barely able to walk but two points from the match against Ellis’ serve and the score 30-30, Brhane fell to the ground and didn’t move for about 5 minutes as trainers administered aid to both of her cramping legs.
She didn’t have to get up.
The moment Begley won, both matches ended. Brhane could finally give into the pain.
So yeah, Texas on 4-1.
Yet while it may not sound close, it was really close, really dramatic and fantastically fan friendly.
You should have been there.
Today, you can be, when the men get their turn at noon.
Follow me @clayhorning
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