Story by Ben Everett | Sports Writer, Video by Branson Hardcastle | Broadcast Reporter
No. 11 Baylor men’s tennis qualified for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Team Indoor Championships with wins over UNLV and No. 21 Florida State this weekend in Waco.
Head coach Matt Knoll picked up his 500th win when the Bears defeated UNLV 4-0 on Saturday at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center.
Knoll said the milestone would not be possible without the help of all the coaches and players he’s worked with throughout his 22-year stint as Baylor head coach.
“Anytime you have a milestone you have to thank all the people that were involved,” Knoll said. “It really is a team effort and that’s something people from the outside don’t appreciate. If you don’t have great help up and down, you can’t be successful at any level, and we’ve had great help over the years.”
Junior Jimmy Bendeck said Knoll has had success because he puts everything into the program.
“He’s put in so much to the program,” Bendeck said. “It was a special moment for him and for us because we got to represent one of those moments.”
The Bears got off to a hot start on Saturday during doubles play. Bendeck and sophomore Bjoern Petersen teamed up to down UNLV’s Ruben Alberts and Jordan Sauer, 6-2, and freshman Roy Smith and sophomore Constantin Frantzen defeated Eric Samuelsson and Clayton Alenik to clinch the doubles point for Baylor.
Smith gave Baylor a 2-0 lead after dominating Sauer 6-1, 6-0 at the No. 6 spot. Junior Will Little took down Richard Solberg at the No. 4 spot, 6-2, 6-1 and freshman Sven Lah clinched the match for Baylor with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Courtney Lock on court three.
The Bears moved outside to the Hurd Tennis Center for their showdown against No. 21 Florida State on Sunday.
Baylor once again took the doubles point with the combo of Little and junior Johannes Schretter picking up a 6-1 win over Aziz Dougaz and Guy Iradukunda before Petersen and Bendeck eked out a 6-4 win over Jose Gracia and Lucas Poullain to give Baylor a 1-0 lead.
Little made quick work of Alex Knaff at the No. 5 spot, 6-2, 6-1 and Schretter defeated Dougaz 6-2, 6-1 at the No. 1 spot to give the Bears a commanding 3-0 lead.
Iradukunda downed Petersen 6-2, 6-4 on court two, but Lah once again clinched with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Lucas Poullain at the No. 3 spot.
Knoll said the Bears played well in their first big match of the season.
“I’m pleased,” Knoll said. “I thought their focus was as high as I could have expected. It’s clear that we’ve got a lot of growing to do, but I thought we saw some maturity that we weren’t sure about and we just don’t know until there’s a big match. This was a big match and the guys responded.”
The Bears are now 16-0 all-time in the ITA Kick-Off event.
Baylor hits the road to face Ole Miss at 11 a.m. Sunday in Oxford, Miss.