By Jeffrey Swindoll
Another successful season as Big 12 champions for Baylor men’s and women’s tennis resulted in four players from each team being sent to the NCAA tournament. Both teams will host the first two rounds of NCAA action from May 9-11 at Hurd Tennis Center.
“It’s always great to host,” Baylor women’s coach Joey Scrivano said. “Who wouldn’t want to play in front of their home fans? I think we play a lot better at home, so it’s a great advantage for us.”
From the men’s side, Diego Galeano, Julian Lenz and Patrick Pradella will compete in singles competition. Mate Zsiga will join Patrick Pradella to compete in doubles.
Galeano, a junior from Paraguay, holds a 26-10 record and currently ranks at No. 29 in the nation, and slots in at No. 3 for the Bears. Pradella boasts a No. 16 rank in the country with a 20-9 overall record. The senior German swapped with Lenz for No. 1 and 2 on the team throughout the season. Pradella will be the No. 3 seed at the NCAAs.
Pradella and Lenz were each selected for the NCAA singles championships last year, but Pradella did not participate, nursing a back injury. Lenz was eliminated in the first round last year. Both look to improve on their last berth to the NCAAs.
Zsiga and Pradella are 10-7 as a pair this season and rank at No. 36 in the ITA listings. In their past three matches, Zsiga and Pradella have dispatched teams ranked No. 29, No. 21 and No. 12. They were a lock for No. 1 tandem in the Baylor’s lineup this season.
“We feel like we’re putting that type of team out there every year,” Knoll said. “Certainly what we’ve done down the stretch indicates that we’re playing some good tennis. We’ve got to take it one day at a time. You can’t win a national championship in the first round, but you can lose it in the first round.”
The women also sent four individuals to the NCAAs this season— Kiah Generette, Jordaan Sanford, Victoria Kisialeva and Blair Shankle. Generette and Sanford are selections for the 64-participant singles tournament and Kisialeva teamed with Shankle qualify for the 32-team doubles bracket.
Generette ranks at No. 42 in the ITA singles listings and is 21-15 overall. She has been Baylor’s No. 1 for most of the Spring. Sanford is on an impressive 16-straight wins, also holding a 9-0 record in Big 12 play at the No. 3 singles spot for the Lady Bears.
March 19 was the last time Kisialeva and Shankle played together, but still managed to ranked at No. 34 in the ITA. Kisialeva was selected to play in last year’s doubles championship, but could not compete with partner Ema Burgic injured. As the top doubles team in the Big 12, Kisialeva and Shankle automatically qualified for the doubles event.
The No. 14 ranked Lady Bears start their tournament against No. 4 seed and in-state rival Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the first round of the NCAA Team Championship and will start at 7 p.m. Friday, May 9 at Hurd Tennis Center. Should the Lady Bears advance, they face the winner between Rice and Denver at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 10.
“We’re always excited to play the big team in Texas,” said Rice junior Natalie Beazant. “I think it’s about time we got the win over Baylor.”
The men also begin their NCAA journey against Texas A&M Corpus Christi at 2 p.m. May 10 at Hurd Tennis Center. The winner between those two will play the winner of Stanford Tulsa at 2 p.m. May 10 at Hurd Tennis Center.