By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Both the Baylor men’s and women’s teams are headed back to the NCAA Championships.
However, after both hosting in 2017, both squads will hit the road for their first two rounds of competition.
The women’s team, which enters with a 17-13 record, makes its 14th straight in appearance in the NCAA Championships field and it marks the 15th time in 16 years that Baylor has it made it under head coach Joey Scrivano.
“It never gets old hearing Baylor’s name called in the tournament, that’s what it’s all about,” Scrivano said. “The second half of the season, we were a completely different team and we were playing at a really high level. We weren’t surprised to be in the tournament and we got a really great draw.”
The Lady Bears will head west to Los Angeles, where they will meet North Carolina State in the opening round. If Baylor gets past the Wolfpack, it will meet the winner of the No. 12 UCLA and Fresno State.
Kraus leads the Lady Bears with a 24-6 record and is currently on an eight-match winning streak on the singles side, including winning both her matches in the Big 12 Tournament and getting Baylor’s only point against Texas.
“We’re just excited. California is a great place, so we’re excited to go there. “They’re [NC State, UCLA],” Kraus said. “We feel really good. We’ve been working so hard the last few weeks and after Big 12 (Championships) we’re going to bounce back. Now we’re going to work even harder, focus and hopefully make a run.”
Sophomores Camilla Abbate and Jessica Hinojosa have also been steady performers for Scrivano this season. Abbate, who has been playing most of her matches lately at the No. 2 spot where she is 6-2, is 19-7 overall and 6-2 in her last 10 matches with three wins over nationally ranked foes.
Hinojosa eclipsed the 20-win mark this year, posting a 21-7 record, including a 2-0 record at the top two spots.
Van Zyl, who was a freshman on the 2015 Baylor team that advanced to the Elite Eight, said that the desire to get back to that stage is fueling her as she enters her final tournament run.
“We are very motivated. Freshman year was a good year and now this is my last year, so I’m motivated to achieve the same,” Van Zyl said.
As the men’s team prepares for its first round of the NCAA Tournament, there will be no flight required. The Bears will travel east to College Station and participate in the regional hosted by No. 5 Texas A&M.
Baylor (20-9) will meet Arizona State (14-10) from the Pac-12 in the opening round.
Baylor men’s head coach Matt Knoll said that the guys are excited, but they know they drew a very difficult path to Winston-Salem, N.C., the final site of the NCAA Championships.
“We’re in and we’re excited. It’s going to be fun to play,” Knoll said. “I know our guys are pumped up. We got ourselves a very tough draw. Arizona State has a very good team. We’re excited to play them. We’re going to have our hands full with them.”
The Bears enter playing some of their best tennis on the season. After finishing just 1-4 in Big 12 play, entering the conference tournament, Baylor upset fifth-seeded Oklahoma State Friday, top-seeded TCU on Saturday before falling to No. 2 Texas on Sunday in the final.
Junior Johannes Schretter and sophomore Constantin Frantzen lead Baylor on the singles side of the net. Schretter posted a 24-13 record this season while Frantzen was 21-9. The Bears have also relied heavily upon its freshmen this season, as Matias Soto (17-8), Roy Smith (19-8) and Sven Lah (15-10) have all played key roles in Baylor’s success.
With the prospect of potentially meeting up with Texas A&M in the second round, a team they beat 4-3 in College Station in 2017 and the excitement surrounding that matchup, Schretter said it gives the team even more confidence heading into the opening rounds.
“It helps a lot. I think we’re confident as a team and I think we’re all playing at a great level right now so I’m confident going to A&M and beat those guys. I’m very comfortable going down there and playing them,” Schretter said.
However, if the Bears want to try to reclaim that victory from a year ago, it must first go through the Sun Devils, a team that redshirt junior Will Little said is the only opponent Baylor should be concerned with right now.
“It’s the only thing that matters. I don’t know who A&M is right now,” Little said. “We found out we’re going to play Arizona State. They’re very good. All their players were pros and had good rankings before college, so we’re going to focus on that for the next couple of weeks.”
Baylor women’s tennis will take on NC State at 12 p.m. Friday, May 11 in Los Angeles. The winner will face either No. 12 UCLA or Fresno State at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 12 in the second round.
Baylor men’s tennis will take on Arizona State at 10 a.m. Friday, May 11 in College Station with the winner getting either No. 5 Texas A&M or Lamar at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 12.