Tennis returns from LA, set for match against SMU

Junior Robert “Woody” Verzaal hits a forehand in a match last spring. Varzaal finished last season 13-11 in singles matches and 9-4 in doubles.
Lariat File Photo
Junior Robert “Woody” Verzaal hits a forehand in a match last spring. Varzaal finished last season 13-11 in singles matches and 9-4 in doubles.
Lariat File Photo
By Phillip Ericksen

The men’s tennis team will look to carry momentum over from a strong showing in the Sherwood Collegiate Cup in Los Angeles last weekend. The team will take on SMU 7 p.m. Friday at home. The team is currently ranked No. 15 in the nation.

Practice this week was built off of the accomplishments from last weekend in Los Angeles. Sophomore Mate Zsiga, junior Robert “Woody” Verzaal, sophomore Diego Galeano and sophomore Tony Lupieri each lost their first round matches and won their next consolation game against players from Stanford, USC and UCLA.

Zsiga won his second round consolation over Ryoto Tachni of UCLA 6-1, 6-3, and Lupieri won 6-2, 6-4 over Matt Kandath of Stanford. Verzaal lost to Stanford’s Robert Stineman 3-6, 6-3, 1-10, but rebounded Sunday to defeat UCLA’s Seth Stolar 6-0, 6-4.

Sophomore Marko Krickovic played the best match in Los Angeles, upsetting 39th ranked John Morrissey of Stanford in a three-set thriller on Saturday. The final set count was 7-5, 6-7 (3), 16-14.

“It’s just nice to start the season with a good win,” Krickovic said. “Our goal is to win the Big 12.”

Ranked 50th in the nation, Krickovic is focused on succeeding this season by playing more aggressively and further developing his style of play.

He also looks forward to a March matchup against top-ranked Virginia at home, as well as a late season date with Oklahoma, a main rival in the Big 12.

The doubles teams of Lupieri/Krickovic and Zsiga/Galeano lost two matches each.

According to head coach Matt Knoll, not all players attended the tournament, and the team isn’t focusing on doubles this early in the season, as 87 percent of the team’s play is in the singles bracket.

“We got guys who will play great doubles,” Knoll said.

Knoll is currently in his 17th season as the Bears’ head coach. Knoll has seen much success, including a National Championship in 2004. Over the past 13 years, he has led the team to 10 Big 12 titles.

In preparing for Friday’s matches against SMU, Knoll is concentrating on improvement. Knoll’s enthusiasm has even inspired the players to practice on their own during a day off on Tuesday.

“We focus on ourselves and we’re working on things we need to work on,” he said.

The team will play its home opener of the 2013 season at the Jim and Nell Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center located next to the Ferrell Center.

Junior Robert “Woody” Verzaal, who picked up two wins at the Sherwood Cup, expressed excitement over the new facility, as well as the team’s chemistry heading into the 2013 season.

“I’m leading by example, but the new players pick up [what] everyone else is doing,” Verzaal said. “They understand what it takes to be a Baylor Bear.”

“It’s as nice a playing environment as I’ve ever seen,” Knoll said. “It’s created a real enthusiasm in the guys.”

Knoll and his players are focusing on the match and not the allure of the new facility.

“We’re not distracted by the pomp and circumstance of the facility,” Knoll said.