By Cody Soto
The No. 2 Baylor men’s tennis team picked up a big 4-0 sweep over No. 25 Oklahoma State Sunday afternoon after a slow start in doubles play and a venue change due to mid-afternoon showers.
Baylor picked up the doubles win and a singles point before moving to the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center to finish the match. The Bears (18-4, 2-1 Big 12) were forced to shake off a tough 4-3 loss to the top-ranked Sooners, and by looking at the start of the match, it didn’t look like they had quite gotten over it just yet.
Oklahoma State (16-7, 0-4 Big 12) quickly took control on all doubles courts to start the afternoon, and Baylor didn’t look to have enough firepower to fight past it. Seniors Mate Zsiga and Tony Lupieri played with little structure and dropped their match 6-2 at the No. 2 spot, and the Cowboys were close to wrapping things up on courts one and three.
“We started out slow; we didn’t come out the way we would like to come out in doubles,” head coach Matt Knoll said. “We were honestly lucky to win with two tiebreakers in matches we easily could have lost.”
The Bears fought back though. Desperation seemed to step in, and junior Felipe Rios and sophomore Vince Schneider picked up a 7-6 (7-2) win on court three, and all eyes turned once again to court one. Baylor relied on Galeano and junior Julian Lenz during Friday’s match, and they would decide the point again.
Galeano and Lenz were forced to fight off a match point against the Cowboys, and they managed to force a tiebreaker at the No. 1 spot. After being tied 4-4, the Bears duo took the next three points to give Baylor the 1-0 lead over Oklahoma State.
“Give credit to the guys; when the chips were down they won, and that’s the sign of a great competitor,” Knoll said. “This was a big match who had a lot of great players. We’ve got to figure out how to be our best when our best is needed. It’s a process for us.”
Things didn’t look so good once again as the Bears started singles play. It took several players half a set to get into their rhythm, but Baylor finally took control when it won five of six first sets over Oklahoma State.
Rios’s game on court six was a big difference compared to Friday’s thriller against the Sooners. He added a point to the board when he blew past OSU’s Jurence Mendoza 6-1, 6-2 at the No. 6 spot.
After the match was moved indoors, sophomore Max Tchoutakian finished off a relatively dominant second set after he took a crucial first set win outdoors. Tchoutakian defeated No. 118 Arjun Kadhe 7-5, 6-1 to give Baylor a 3-0 lead. The three-point finally seemed to make a statement for the Bears who were still out of rhythm.
“We are good, and we need to get our mentality right,” Galeano said. “We are here to win matches, and we can’t let one match destroy our season. We have to make sure we are ready to go. We are Baylor. We have to win.”
Lenz and Zsiga had each taken a close first set win, but both had mixed results in the second set. Lenz was struggling against No. 29 Jakob Sude but held on long enough to allow Galeano to clinch the match with a 6-3, 6-4 win on court four.
Lupieri had also picked up the pace on court two as he forced a third set before the match was called. Lupieri and Galeano each dropped their singles matches against No. 1 Oklahoma on Friday.
“I didn’t know the guy who was inhabiting Tony Lupieri’s body for the past few weeks, and it looks like he’s back, and Diego Galeano as well,” Knoll said. “We need those guys on point, and they looked on point today as it got towards the end. Both guys haven’t been where we expected them to be; we don’t need them to be Roger Federer. We need them to be Tony and Diego.”
The Bears now hit the road for their final two conference matches before the Big 12 Championships in Waco. With No. 1 Oklahoma losing to Texas Tech in Lubbock, the Sooners and Bears each have one loss in conference play. Baylor still has a chance to win the Big 12 regular season title, but there is still a week to go.
“We have to play as a team,” Galeano said. “We are going to Austin to play a tough match, and they have really good players. They are going to be really tough. If we get better every day and play how we are, then we’re going to be a good team at the end of the season.”
No. 2 Baylor faces No. 9 Texas at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in Austin.