By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
The No. 3-ranked Baylor men’s tennis team split a pair of matches this weekend in Waco to begin Big 12 conference play with a .500 record.
The Bears (20-4, 1-1) defeated No. 16 Oklahoma 4-3 on Friday before falling to No. 8 Oklahoma State 3-4 on Sunday.
In the first match, Baylor jumped out to an early advantage over the Sooners with a dominating win in doubles.
Baylor head coach Matt Knoll says Little and Schretter looked good in Friday’s match, keeping things simple to roll to victories.
“Those guys are doing a great job. They were getting a lot of balls on the court,” Knoll said. “Tennis isn’t a complicated game. It’s easy to make it complicated, but those guys were making a lot of balls and fighting really hard and being disciplined. And it paid off.”
That left sophomore Jimmy Bendeck at No. 5 to attempt to clinch the match for the Bears. Bendeck pulled out the victory 7-6(6), 5-7, 7-5 in thrilling fashion as the Bears broke a five-game losing streak to the Sooners.
Bendeck says that despite the pressure, he enjoyed being the closer because he could feel the support from the fans and teammates.
“There’s a lot of pressure when it’s 3-all,” Bendeck said. “It makes it easy, though, when you have your teammates and 400 people or something like that cheering for me on every point, helping me out. If I didn’t have those people, I wouldn’t have gotten through the match. They were special.”
In Sunday’s match, Baylor once again jumped out to the 1-0 lead after a dominant doubles performance.
The Bears’ No. 1 team of Benitez and Little make quick work of the Cowboys’ Julian Cash and Arjun Kadhe, a team that is ranked No. 5 in the country.
Knoll said the win on Court 1 was a great way to start the match.
“That’s one of the best teams in the country,” Knoll said. “They’ve been top-5, really, for three years. So yeah, that was fantastic. It was a good step in the right direction for us to be competitive in doubles, to win doubles both matches this weekend.”
After doubles play, however, Benitez again struggled in his individual play, dropping a three-set contest to Cash.
Meanwhile, Tchoutakian rebounded from a Friday loss to win in straight sets against Kadhe. Additionally, Little and Frantzen faltered against their opponents, each losing in straight sets as the Cowboys took the match 4-3.
Knoll says there will be ups and downs in conference play due to the strength of the league.
“You don’t have to be very smart to look at the rankings and see we’re the best league in the country,” Knoll said. “We rolled out some really good teams this weekend, and we’re going to roll out a really good team on Wednesday.”
The Bears look to bounce back as they face Texas at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Austin.