By Cody Soto
No. 2 Baylor men’s tennis breezed through its competition last Sunday as the team blanked both Incarnate Word and the UT-Arlington 7-0 at the Hurd Tennis Center. Despite switching up the lineup during both matches, the Bears did not miss a beat in their Sunday doubleheader.
“When you have a lot of good players, matches like this are good, because it gives guys a chance to get out and get some experience,” head coach Matt Knoll said. “I thought our guys really responded well today.”
Baylor (16-3, 1-0 Big 12) dominated the Incarnate Word Cardinals in the first leg of the doubleheader, winning every possible point in singles and doubles. All three Baylor duos pulled away in their doubles matches, and junior Felipe Rios and freshman Juan Benitez finished first with a 6-0 win over UIW’s Brody Rodriguez and Andre Dempsey on court three.
The No. 51 duo of seniors Mate Zsiga and Tony Lupieri clinched the doubles point with a 6-2 victory on court one, and senior Diego Galeano and sophomore Vince Schneider completed the sweep with a close 6-4 win at the No. 2 spot.
Benitez blanked UIW’s Dempsey 6-0, 6-0 on court six, and his teammates followed suit quickly after that. No. 125 Rios won 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 5 spot, and No. 47 sophomore Max Tchoutakian took a 6-3, 6-2 win over UIW’s Josip Smolian on court two. Lupieri topped off the dominant win with a 6-3, 6-3 decision at the top of the lineup.
Not long after the conclusion of that match, the Bears changed uniforms and started warming up for the second leg of the doubleheader. The opponent may have changed, but the result stayed the game. The wind was also a factor in how the team played, Zsiga said.
“It was a little windy, but it’s good to play in these type of conditions,” he said. “Coming off a tournament in California where the weather was perfect, it was good to get back and play in a home environment. The guys executed well.”
The Bears started strong on courts one and three during doubles play against UT-Arlington, but junior Julian Lenz and Rios were struggling on court two. However, as quick as they were behind 3-1, the duo quickly stormed back and won five straight games to take a 6-3 win. Zsiga and Lupieri clinched the point with a 6-3 victory on court one. The Bears have now won 18 of 19 doubles points this season.
“It’s funny because we don’t really practice doubles,” Zsiga said. “We try to use our own strengths and minimize the weaknesses, and it’s going well this season. We have a good team chemistry, and we believe in each other. It’s pretty simple, and we just play hard.”
Benitez, the freshman from Medellin, Columbia, finished first for the second time on Sunday with a 6-1, 6-1 win on court six. Moments later, Galeano wrapped up play on court five, and the domino effect started to occur for the Bears.
No. 3 Lenz clinched the win for the Bears, and No. 30 Luperi, No. 97 Zsiga and No. 47 each recorded wins to complete the sweep over the Mavericks.
With his win in singles play, Zsiga is one win away from his 100th career win at Baylor.
“It obviously would be a good thing to reach, it’s just a side thing,” Zsiga said. “There’s one main thing I’m working on, and that’s winning every single match and helping the team.”
The Bears take a break this week as they recover from Sunday’s matches and a runner-up appearance at the BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge in Indian Wells, Calif. on March 20-22.
“We are going let the guys take a step back,” Knoll said. “They will get rest and get their minds right to be ready to make a push through the toughest conference in America.”
The Bears return to action at 6 p.m. next Tuesday against Seminole College at the Hurd Tennis Center.