By Lindsey Miner
The Baylor men’s tennis team will play nine opponents ranked in the top 25 of last season’s final Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll.
The Bears finished up the 2011-2012 season No. 18 nationally, according to the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Rankings.
“Ranking No. 18 isn’t our goal,” sophomore Mate Zsiga said. “We are a top 10 team. We want to finish in the top 10 this season, and we are absolutely able to do that. All these guys are great players.”
Zsiga is No. 7 nationally, and fellow sophomore Diego Galeano is No. 110.
“This rank sets a limit,” Zsiga said. “It’s great, but this is not what I focus on. The team goals are absolutely first. I’m still the same guy and I still have to work harder every day. There’s some expectations, and I’ll try to do my best. If you do the hard work, the things after will come.”
The Bears had an influx of freshman players last year. The 2011-2012 roster included five freshmen. This year, the team breeds a new aura of confidence and experience.
“All of our guys have more experience,” Zsiga said. “We are really excited and can’t wait to show our true potential.”
The men kick off the fall season in Waco with the 12th annual Baylor HEB Invitational at the Hurd Tennis Center Friday through Sunday.
Baylor will compete against teams from DePaul University, University of Idaho, Laredo Community College, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Midwestern State University, Rice University, Southern Mississippi University, University of Tennessee, University of Tulsa, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio, UTPA and Virginia Tech.
Baylor will then go to the ITA All-American Championships with six players in Tulsa, Okla.
The tournament starts with prequalifying matches on Sept. 29 with the main draw set to begin on Oct. 4.
On Nov. 3, Baylor will welcome back former tennis players for the annual Alumni Match at the Hurd Tennis Center.
The men who qualify at the regional level will then proceed to the ITA National Indoor Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., on Nov. 8-11. The other remaining players will go to the Southern California Intercollegiate in Los Angeles, Calif., which will occur at the same time as the National Indoor Championships.
“Every player had some kind of pressure at some point last year, but we know what to expect now,” sophomore Marko Krickovic said. “We have more experience now. We improved a lot toward the end of the season.”
Matt Knoll is entering his 17th season as the Baylor men’s tennis coach. Since last season, he has seen some big improvements in his players.
Knoll also has the leadership and experience of two former players assisting him in coaching the team.
Dominik Mueller will return as the assistant coach for the men’s team and Michal Kokta will serve as the team’s volunteer assistant for the second year.
“Our goal is really to improve every day and immerse ourselves in the process and see where it will take us,” Knoll said.