For all of the great things it accomplished this season, the Texas Tech men’s tennis team was focused on its most recent failure.
The No. 8 Red Raiders dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 30 SMU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at the McLeod Tennis Center.
“Definitely not the way we wanted to end our season by any means,” Texas Tech head coach Brett Masi said. “It’s very disappointing. I’m really at a loss for words right now just because, one we didn’t play at the level that we’ve played at all year. … We weren’t there for the fight that SMU gave us. So credit to them, they stepped up and took it to us.”
But Masi will do his best to remind his players that they turned in a solid performance in his first season at the helm.
Texas Tech, which finished the season with a program-best 28 victories, also earned a share of the Big 12 regular season championship and later an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
“Winning a Big 12 title, we haven’t done that here before. So that’s great footing for us,” Masi said. “But we wanted Final Four or better even for this team. It doesn’t mean anything until you get to the Round of 16 or more in my opinion. … We’ve got to look at things we can do better for next season, even though we had a lot of success this year, and improve on those things.”
The Red Raiders, who qualified for their 10th NCAA Tournament over the past 12 seasons, hosted the annual tournament for the first time since 2005. In that season, Texas Tech advanced to its only Sweet 16 appearance.
All of that history will be difficult to cherish as the Red Raiders (28-6) lament on their missed opportunities Sunday against the Mustangs (22-8).
It marked the first time Texas Tech dropped a home match this year, falling to 14-1.
“We knew it would be a tremendous battle,” said SMU head coach Carl Neufeld, whose squad earned its third road win. “Tech is an incredibly good team, especially strong at home. … Hats off to them because they played a great match. We’re just peaking at the right time, getting better and better and gaining confidence. It showed today.”
Texas Tech was unable to get a jump on the Mustangs during doubles play.
SMU’s Hunter Johnson and Yates Johnson defeated Alex Sendegeya and Bjorn Thomson, 6-3, while Samm Butler and Ronald Slobodchik and turned back Carlos DiLaura and Hugo Dojas, 7-5, in the No. 1 and No. 3 matches, respectively.
Heading into singles play with a 1-0 deficit, the Red Raiders struggled to find consistent play against a hard-hitting SMU squad.
In six singles matches, the Mustangs earned first-set victories in four contests.
SMU’s Hunter Johnson notched a 6-4, 6-2, win over Felipe Soares until the Red Raiders clawed back before dropping the match.
“It was so much better than I expected it to be,” said Thomson, a freshman who defeated SMU’s Yates Johnson, 6-4, 6-4, to give the Red Raiders their first singles win. “OK, we lost today, but we made some memories and gotta push on from there.”
Texas Tech’s Soares and Dojas are looking to create a few more memories before closing out their senior campaigns.
Soares qualified as a singles competitor in the NCAA Individual Championships. Along with Dojas, Soares qualified for doubles play in the NCAA Doubles Championships slated for May 25-30 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Of their 10 athletes, Texas Tech graduates three seniors — including Carlos DiLaura.
“The future is bright and positive for us,” Masi said. “Moving forward, that will be good.”
Follow Carlos on Twitter: