By Cody Soto
The Baylor vs. TCU rivalry is alive and well, but for the No. 5 men’s tennis team, the argument is one sided. The Bears swept the Horned Frogs 4-0 Tuesday night at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center for their 15th-straight win over TCU.
The Bears (10-2, 1-0 Big 12) were shaky in the beginning of doubles play, and the Horned Frogs looked in control midway through the match when Baylor trailed 3-1 on each court. The Bears fought back and used the energy coming off the rafters at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center.
“They absolutely jumped on us in doubles,” head coach Matt Knoll said. “They have a great doubles tradition at TCU, and their guys were more aggressive and decisive at the beginning. All three courts dug in and got tough.”
It sounded like an old-fashioned yelling contest between Baylor and TCU fans, and junior Felipe Rios and sophomore Vince Schneider stirred up the crowd with a three-game comeback to take a 6-4 win on court three.
After that, seniors Mate Zsiga and Tony Lupieri dropped a close 6-4 loss on court one to No. 20 pairing of Nick Chappell and Will Stein to tie up doubles, forcing court two to decide the doubles point.
After being down 3-1, senior Diego Galeano and junior Julian Lenz fought back to tie up the score 4-4. Lenz slammed the ball at the net and sent it soaring in the stands for the exciting 6-4 win, giving the Bears their 12th-straight doubles point of the season.
“We got off to a slow start in doubles,” Zsiga said. “We had to pick it up. It was a good test; it helped us realize that we’ve got to step up from the first point.”
The momentum was knocked out of the Horned Frogs at the beginning of singles play, and Baylor kept on top of their opponents quickly. While the crowd still erupted after each big play, the Bears also showed their emotions on the court.
Rios looked unstoppable in his opening set. His decision making at the net forced TCU’s Trevor Johnson to hit too many long shots, and the Vina Del Mar, Chile native walked off court six with a dominant 6-0, 6-2 win for the 2-0 Baylor lead.
“Felipe getting off the court early was big for us,” Knoll said. “Momentum plays a big role in matches, and we got off quick there 2-0. It puts a lot of pressure on the team, and we rode that momentum.”
Sophomore Max Tchoutakian shook off his two-set loss on Sunday and played a competitive match on court three. No. 40 Tchoutakian gave up three straight games after leading 5-0 in the opening set but closed out the set in a memorable fashion. He won four straight games in the second set to win 6-3, 6-2 to push Baylor out to the 3-0 lead over TCU.
Fans had to wait awhile longer to figure out who would deliver the final point for the Bears. Schneider took a big 6-4 win on court four but fell in set two which forced him to play a third and final set. No. 23 Lupieri dropped his opening set 6-3 but forced a third set on court two while No. 11 Lenz was fighting off No. 28 Cameron Norrie on court one.
Zsiga delivered the final punch in the in-state rival matchup on court five. The 6-foot-2 senior dominated the opening set and didn’t drop a single game heading into set two. No. 110 Facundo Lugones changed up his speed and took an early advantage, but Zsiga outlasted the TCU player for the match-clinching 6-0, 6-4 win.
“In the second set, he slowed it down and I had a hard time there,” Zsiga said. “It was really close, but it was a challenge. I had to serve really well and got some good first serves when I needed it. It was really good because he pushed me, and it brought the best out of me.”
The Bears take a break from match play for the rest of the week before they travel to play No. 47 Memphis next Sunday. No. 5 Baylor also faces No. 9 Ole Miss on March 10 in Oxford, Miss. in its second-straight road game.