By Will Potter
Junior Julian Bley hit a cross-court winner to earn a third set, tiebreak win and clinch a dual match victory for the men’s tennis team over the No. 1 ranked Tennessee Volunteers 4-3. As if the first ever win for Baylor men’s tennis over a No. 1 ranked squad wasn’t enough, his clutch play came on his birthday.
“I’m just so happy right now, I can’t even tell you how I feel,” Bley said. “The win was huge for this team and our season.”
The win marks Baylor’s first signature win over a top ranked opponent this season, and it came in the most dramatic fashion.
With the overall match score tied at 3-3, all eyes turned to Bley in his match against Jarryd Chaplin from Tennessee. Bley came back from a 4-2 deficit in the final set to reel off three games in a row and take a 5-4 lead. The two players shared breaks and ended in a third set tiebreaker.
“Julian’s resilience today was unbelievable. He kept fighting throughout the match and eventually took control when it mattered most and pulled out the win,” head coach Matt Knoll said.
Bley took control when it mattered most and locked up the match 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5). He did not play in the Bears’ last match, and Knoll put him back in the lineup at the No. 6 spot to bring in some intangibles for the biggest home match of the year. The move paid off for the Bears.
“I didn’t play the last few matches, so when coach told me that I was playing today I was super pumped to be back out there,” Bley said. “Pulling out the win today was such a big confidence boost for me, and I am thrilled about how the match turned out.”
The win was key for Baylor in bouncing back from a tough loss to the then No. 1 ranked Virginia Cavaliers over the weekend and was evidence that the Bears can play with the best.
“We needed this win today. I thought the team did a great job and I am proud of our guys,” Knoll said. “We have belief that we can win against the best; we just needed proof. Today we got that validation.”
When asked about where this birthday ranked among the others for Bley he gave a smile and answered, “This has to be the greatest birthday ever.”