By Cody Soto
The faces change, but the headlines stay the same for Baylor tennis. The men and women hoisted two Big 12 championship trophies last weekend as both teams ended the regular season as conference champions for the third consecutive year.
The second-ranked Bears topped No. 16 Texas Tech 4-1 on Saturday night in Lubbock to claim a share of the championship title with top-ranked Oklahoma. The Bears won their 13th Big 12 regular season title with the win, their 12th trophy in the last 14 years.
Baylor (20-4, 4-1 Big 12) lost to the Sooners 4-3 on April 10 in Waco, and it seemed as though a Big 12 trophy was out of the question. However, two days later, Oklahoma dropped a 4-3 decision to the Red Raiders in Lubbock and gave Baylor another chance at finishing conference play with a title.
“I’m happy for the team,” head coach Matt Knoll said. “They’ve worked so hard so far this year, and they did a great job of coming through in a tough environment today. I’m really proud of them.”
On Saturday, Baylor extended its impressive doubles record to 22-1 as the Bears swept courts one through three to start the match. The No. 25-ranked duo of junior Julian Lenz and senior Diego Galeano upset No. 16 Felipe Soares and Hugo Dojas 6-4 at the top.
Knoll switched up the normal lineup against the Red Raiders, and senior Tony Lupieri sat out during singles action. No. 67 sophomore Max Tchoutakian moved up to the No. 2 spot, followed by Galeano at the No. 3 spot.
Rios trampled over Francisco Zambon on court five and pulled away for a 6-1, 6-2 win for the first singles point of the night. No. 112 senior Mate Zsiga earned his 102nd singles career win as he upset No. 106 Jolan Cailleau 6-1, 6-2 on court four, and he put Baylor on the brink of another title.
Texas Tech got its lone point of the night when Connor Curry topped Schneider 6-3, 6-2 at the bottom the lineup. Schneider had not played a singles match since March 29, and he’s lost three out of his last four matches. Second-ranked Lenz exerted his dominance on court one as he took a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 33 Soares to claim the 4-1 victory.
“I think we grew us a team today, and I thought the team really got a lot out of it today,” Knoll said. “It’s one of those days where you don’t walk out there expecting to play your best tennis, but you just want to be competitive and gritty.”
Baylor returns home to host the Big 12 Championships this weekend at the Hurd Tennis Center. The No. 2-seed Bears face the winner of No. 3-seed TCU and No. 6-seed Oklahoma State at noon on Saturday. If the team wins, Baylor will play in the championship match at noon on Sunday.
No. 8 Baylor women’s tennis claimed an outright Big 12 championship after sweeping unranked Kansas State and No. 72 Kansas 4-0 last weekend at the Hurd Tennis Center. The Lady Bears were tied with Texas Tech for the top spot, but were able to take sole possession of the crown after the Red Raiders’ loss to TCU on Saturday.
The Lady Bears (22-6, 8-1 Big 12) blew past the Wildcats in doubles play when junior Rachael James-Baker and freshman Theresa Van Zyl won 6-3 at the No. 3 spot. Freshmen Leolia JeanJean and Kelley Anderson clinched the doubles point with a 6-2 win on court one for the Bears.
Senior Ema Burgic was resting, so sophomore Blair Shankle took over at the top of the lineup. She defeated KSU’s Carolina Costamagna 6-3, 6-3 for the match-clinching point and the outright title. Anderson and Van Zyl also won their respective singles matches for the 4-0 shutout on Sunday.
“It is a challenge to win the Big 12 every year,” head coach Joey Scrivano said. “I am thankful that this team has been really coachable and that has made this year really enjoyable.”
On Friday, the Lady Bears battled the Kansas Jayhawks both at the Hurd Tennis Center and the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center after rain forced the match inside for singles play. Before the delay, Shankle and junior Kiah Generette blanked Kansas’ Maria Jose Cardona and Alexis Zsapinski 6-0 at the bottom of the lineup. Quickly after that, JeanJean and freshman Kely Putri claimed a 6-2 win on court two to give Baylor the doubles point.
After the match was moved indoors, Van Zyl made quick work of her opponent as she blew past Lauren Pickens to win 6-1, 6-0 for the quick 2-0 Baylor lead. No. 104 JeanJean followed suit with a 6-1, 6-0 win at the No. 4 spot, and Shankle delivered the final point with a hard earned 6-2, 6-3 win on court three.
With a team consisting of mostly underclassmen, the Lady Bears were able to capture their 11th regular season title and ninth out of the last 10 years.
“Anytime we get a newcomer on the team, I want them to hold that trophy and experience success, especially team success,” Scrivano said. “In tennis, it is all a little too individual and this is an opportunity for them to experience how hard it is for them to win as a team, so I’m really proud of them. The freshmen have come a long way.”
No. 1-seed Baylor hosts the Big 12 Championships this weekend. The Lady Bears face the winner of No. 8-seed Iowa State and No. 9-seed Kansas State at 3 p.m. on Friday at the Hurd Tennis Center. If Baylor advances, the semifinals and finals will be played Saturday and Sunday.