By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
For the second time in two months, NCAA tournament play is coming to Waco.
In March, it was Baylor women’s head coach Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears earning a No. 1 seed and brining tournament action to the Ferrell Center.
This time, it will be on a different kind of court as both the Baylor Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
The women’s team, which boasts the No. 15 ranked team in the country, enters the tournament as the No. 16 overall seed. The Lady Bears will welcome Texas A&M (16-12, 6-7 Southeastern Conference), the University of Louisiana-Monroe (16-1, 5-0 Sun Belt Conference) and Texas A&M Corpus Christi (20-2, 9-1 Southland Conference).
Texas A&M and Louisiana-Monroe will start competition at 10 a.m. Saturday. Baylor will then take on Texas A&M Corpus Christi following that match at 1 p.m. The two winners will then play at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Baylor (21-6, 8-2) enters the tournament 15-0 at the Hurd Tennis Center this season, and assistant coach Chris Frusci is hoping that the home court success will continue through these first two rounds.
“We knew hosting would be a big component moving forward considering we were undefeated at home this year. We take care of our home court pretty well, so that was big for us,” Frusci said. “The home crowd is a big part of our success. Playing in our stadium on the same courts we practice on every day. We feel comfortable on our courts. It’s the support we get at home.”
For the No. 6 ranked men’s team, the Bears enter 21-7 overall but are coming off a 4-2 loss to Texas Tech in the Big 12 Quarterfinals.
Despite the early exit in the conference tournament, head coach Matt Knoll is excited and confident in the Bears’ chances to win entering the postseason.
“The postseason is what it is all about. We have to survive and advance,” Knoll said. “We are lucky we have a couple weeks off. Our guys take some finals and re-engage. I expect us to play our best tennis down the stretch.”
Baylor, who received the No. 7 overall seed in the tournament, will have its hands and racquets full entering the tournament. The Bears will welcome Cornell (21-3) Rice (23-7) and Lamar (17-7) to the Hurd Tennis Center.
In the Waco regional, No. 2 seed Cornell will take on No. 3 Rice at 10 a.m. Friday with Baylor to take on with No. 4 Lamar at 1 p.m. The winners will meet for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Even though Baylor gets a chance to host and has been rewarded with a high overall seed for its success in the regular season, Knoll and the Bears know that every team is capable of winning on any given day.
“Everyone is great at this time of year. Everybody won their league or had a great season,” Knoll said. “We are playing Lamar to open and they are conference champions. They have had a lot of success and I am sure they are going to be confident. We are going to have to be ready to go.”
This bid for the NCAA tournament is Baylor’s 20th consecutive bid. The Bears are also undefeated (24-0) in the tournament when they host, something Knoll hopes will continue to boost his players and the community.
“It is huge to host,” Knoll said. “I am really thrilled for our guys and the community. To be able to have NCAA Tennis here on campus is great.”