By Cody Soto
When the No. 10 Baylor men’s tennis team wants to defend their home courts, they mean it. The Bears obliterated Louisiana-Lafayette 7-0 on Thursday afternoon at the Hurd Tennis Center for their third straight sweep this season.
Baylor (3-1) was able to answer back after its season opening loss to then-No. 11 Illinois and since then has held its own in Waco. The win gives Baylor a 12-5 all-time series lead against the Ragin’ Cajuns, including a 11-0 stance under head coach Matt Knoll.
“I thought we got off to a great start in singles, on five courts particularly,” Knoll said. “Our level of intensity was good. Up and down, it was a really good day.”
The Bears continued their winning ways in doubles play as fans saw different faces on the court. Junior Julian Lenz, No. 5 in the nation in men’s singles, did not see game time during Thursday’s matchup to prepare for the team’s next competition in Dallas this weekend.
Freshman Juan Benitez and sophomore Max Tchoutakian stormed past Louisiana-Lafayette’s Jake Wynan and Vlad Kramarov on court six for a 6-2 win in the duo’s first appearance in doubles play this season.
“I was on court six for doubles, and I thought they competed really well,” Knoll said. “We haven’t coached them a lot in doubles, and they came out and fought really hard. It was impressive.”
Quickly after that, seniors Diego Galeano and Mate Zsiga handled their opponents on court four as the duo took a steady 6-2 win to end doubles play and give Baylor a 1-0 lead early against the Ragin’ Cajuns. On court five, sophomore Vince Schneider and junior Felipe Rios were down 4-3 before the game was called due to new Intercollegiate Tennis Association rules for non-conference matches.
Singles play was underway shortly after doubles concluded and the Bears took control quickly.
All the Bears cruised in their opening set, except senior Tony Lupieri. With Lenz out, Lupieri was the No. 1 singles player for Baylor, and he got off to a slow start. Down 3-1, he was forced to fight back on court four.
“Tony got off to a bad start,” Knoll said. “He didn’t get to the court as ready to play as I would like. He didn’t play doubles, and i think that kept his mental preparation not as good as it should have been.”
Schneider didn’t look to have much trouble on court six and did not drop a single game until late in the second set before defeating Kramarov 6-0, 6-1 in a timely fashion. Less than five minutes later, Galeano took down Jarred Wynan in a heated match 6-2, 6-0 on court five.
With Baylor leading the match 3-0, No. 121 Rios sealed the deal all the way on court one as he fought off Rok Sitar for the 6-1, 6-1 win to give Baylor its third straight win at home.
The rest of the singles matches were played out, and the winning streak did not change. No. 2 seeded Tchoutakian blanked Edgar Lopez in the opening set, but he was able to break a 2-2 tie in the second set to win 6-0, 6-3 on court three.
“At the beginning, I was focused and ready for this match,” Tchoutakian said. “We compete hard. I was playing very well from the beginning and gained confidence.”
Since the season opener, Knoll has fluctuated the lineup depending on what players would compete. Tchoutakian has steadily climbed his way from No. 4 to No. 2 and will be in the mix for the rest of the season, Knoll said.
“Max had a strong ending today and played really well,” he said. “He loves pace; the harder you hit it the better he plays, and that’s what we’re going to have to continue to think about when doing the lineup.”
Zsiga followed Tchoutakian’s match with an exciting 6-0, 6-3 match victory on court two, and Lupieri shook off the early start to defeat Jake Wynan 6-4, 6-3 to hand Baylor a clean sweep in every single match.
The Bears travel to Dallas this weekend to participate in the USTA $100,000 RBC Tennis Championships Baylor will face Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla. on Feb. 6 before competing in the National Indoor Championships in Chicago, Ill. Baylor returns home on Feb. 20 to host Purdue at the Hurd Tennis Center.