Men’s tennis team takes home tough victory in Florida

By Phillip Ericksen

The men’s tennis team is coming off of a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Florida Gators on Saturday.

“We’re pleased,” head coach Matt Knoll said. “It’s tough to play there. We’ve struggled down there for years and I thought the guys did a great job of battling from beginning to [the] end and finding a way to win.”

After clinching the doubles point, the Bears were down early with straight-set losses from sophomores Tony Lupieri and Diego Galeano.

Top-seeded Patrick Pradella won 6-4, 6-4 and No. 77 Marko Krickovic lost 6-7 (4), 6-1, 4-6, leaving the Gators with a 3-2 lead.

Two of the team’s top players, No. 78 Mate Zsiga and No. 43 Julian Lenz, then powered the Bears to two more three-set singles victories, clinching the win.

Zsiga’s final score was 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Lenz’s was 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

“It was huge team effort from us,” Zsiga said. “Everybody really tried hard, everybody was really focused and really tried their best. Everybody knew what his job is.”

This win brings the Bears to a 7-1 record and extends their win streak to five.

Lenz said that during his last set, he knew he had to win for Baylor to take home the victory.

“You look every single changeover at the scoreboards,” Lenz said. “Everything was up to me and I tried to focus on the things we talked about.”

Lenz and Zsiga have played pivotal roles this season and will continue to lead the Bears into their tough March schedule against three top-10 teams.

“I came to Baylor to get really good matches to help the team and the program,” Lenz said. “To perform well, to take control in college tennis, try to get the team together, be a leader and try to motivate everybody every single day.”

The team’s commitment to a high focus level paid off through this win and will be tested once again in a doubleheader Saturday at the Hurd Tennis Center. They will take on the Laredo Community College-Palominos at 11 a.m. and the Abilene Christian Wildcats at 3 p.m.

The matches should feature more performances from both the top players and others to gain experience.

“If anything, I wish we were scheduling a quadruple header,” coach Knoll said. “You’ll see some other guys getting in and some different doubles combinations.”

He also doesn’t plan on the focus level wearing off.

“It’s improved,” he said. “We needed to make some big improvements if we’re going to have a chance to succeed against some of the teams we have coming up, and we’ve done that.  We need a result like the Florida result to develop a confidence and a togetherness that we can find a way to win these matches. I think that we all feel great about where we are right now.”

The Bears will take on No. 6 Kentucky, No. 3 UCLA and No. 1 Virginia over a four-day stretch during the second week of March.

“Right now we’re playing really good, so I think everybody got this push from this Saturday,” Zsiga said. “Honestly, the burden is not on our shoulders because they’re ranked higher than us. They have something to lose, and we just have to win. So we just go out there and play our best tennis.”