Tennis Update

Sophomore Josh Howard-Tripp prepares to a backhand slice Feb. 10 against Texas’s No. 14 Yuya Ito.

The last week and a half has seen some ups and downs for both Arkansas tennis squads.

After starting the year 6-0, the women’s team earned its most impressive win against then-ranked No. 9 Oklahoma State on Feb. 1. Arkansas pulled out the thriller, 4-3, improving to 7-0 on the season.

“They were so fired up,” Arkansas coach Courtney Steinbock said. “Through the doubles we saw that we could hang with them, and then through singles we hung around long enough that we showed ourselves that ‘hey, maybe this is possible.’ It was an emotional day.”

It was a quick turnaround for the Razorbacks as the women’s team took on Oklahoma two days after the win and suffered its first loss at the hands of the Sooners, 4-0.

“I think it was no surprise that we put all our eggs in one basket (against Oklahoma State), Steinbock said. “I think all the energy was put into that match and we honestly didn’t have much in the tank for Sunday (against Oklahoma). I thought we competed pretty well for not really having much energy.”

Since the OU matchup, Arkansas has dropped its last two matches. Both Tulsa and Loyola Marymount took down the Hogs, 4-1, this week. Arkansas will limp back to Fayetteville hoping for better fortune on home courts, but Coach Steinbock is not quick to panic.

“I think we’re growing,” Steinbock said. “We’re getting better, we’re learning, and we’re really figuring each other out.”

The next chance for the Razorbacks to break their three-match losing streak is against the Kansas Jayhawks at 1 p.m. next Sunday in Lawrence.

Following the women’s match against Oklahoma on Feb. 3, the men’s team completed a full-day sweep of both Tulsa and Nebraska-Omaha. Five days later, the Hogs kept the momentum going as they swept SMU. Coach Andy Jackson was pleased with the three-straight sweeps, but he was cautious to be overconfident after just three matches, he said.

“I think that we’re improving,” Jackson said. “We’re competing better, and we’re gaining some confidence.”

Arkansas looked to continue its winning streak two days after taking down SMU, but it would be a much tougher task facing a top-10 ranked Texas team. The Longhorns came into Billingsley Tennis Center and were too much to handle for Arkansas, as they took the match, 6-1. Arkansas has now faced two teams at the top of the rankings that will make a run at an NCAA title, so the Razorbacks have started to gauge where they stand among the best in the country.

Jackson said the most important thing when it comes to playing top schools like Texas or Ohio State, whom Arkansas played earlier in the year, is to stay competitive and get the best results possible, even if it doesn’t result in a win.

Another Big 12 team, OU, took down Arkansas a week after Texas did the same, 5-2. But Arkansas bounced back to defeat the University of Missouri-Kansas City and improved to 9-4 on the season. Next up for the Razorbacks is South Carolina at 6 p.m. March 1 in the Billingsley Tennis Center.

 

Drew Watzke is the sports editor of the Arkansas Traveler. Previously, he worked as a sports writer and columnist from 2018-2019.

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