By Cody Soto
Both Baylor men’s and women’s tennis faced conference rival TCU in the Big 12 Tennis Championships semifinal round, but the Bears pulled away with two victories to advance to the final day of the tournament tomorrow.
No. 2 Baylor men’s tennis over No. 6 TCU 4-3
It was not an easy match, nor was it a pretty one. It was down to the final match on court one, and junior Julian Lenz took the third set tiebreaker to push No. 2 Baylor men’s tennis over the edge with a 4-3 win over No. 6 TCU Saturday afternoon at the Hurd Tennis Center.
“Some of our guys didn’t have their best day, but they found a way to win,” senior Diego
Galeano said. “These are the matches you need to play to win championships. It’s huge for us.”
With the win, the Bears advance to the Big 12 championship match Sunday afternoon against the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners won their match against No. 9 Texas in a similar fashion, winning 4-3 on a third set tiebreaker.
The Bears did not necessarily play their best tennis on Saturday, but a late push decided the match. TCU fired back from a 3-1 deficit to tie it up 3-3 late in the match; Baylor previously defeated the Horned Frogs 4-0 in conference play on March 3.
“TCU was really impressive,” said head coach Matt Knoll. “They won a key tiebreaker on court two and on court five, and they outcompeted us there. We know they are a great team, and we got pushed to the limit that’s for sure.”
TCU took control early in doubles play, leading 2-1 on courts one and two. The No. 63 duo of seniors Mate Zsiga and Tony Lupieri fell behind 4-1 in the middle of the lineup and were forced to play from behind the rest of the match.
Junior Felipe Rios and sophomore Vince Schneider pulled away after a 2-2 tie, and the team went on a 4-1 run to win 6-3 at the bottom of the lineup. Zsiga and Lupieri couldn’t pull together a late rally and fell 6-3 on court two.
All pressure was on court one, and No. 18-ranked duo of junior Julian Lenz and senior Diego Galeano used an aggressive service tactic to wrap up a 6-4 contest, and Baylor took a 1-0 lead over TCU.
Baylor opened up singles play in a dominant fashion, taking four of six opening sets at the Hurd Tennis Center. Rios had to win his opening set in a thrilling tiebreaker, but the Vina Del Mar, Chile native won the next six out of seven games to take a 7-6, 6-1 win at the bottom of the lineup.
His teammate Galeano followed suit and pushed Baylor out to a 3-1 lead over TCU when he downed Facundo Lugones 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 4 spot. Matches on courts one and two were following in favor of Baylor, but TCU gained momentum off several errors from Lenz and Lupieri at those spots.
“The mistake you can make is when you’re scoreboard watching; you can’t do that,” Knoll said. “You’ve got to get to four points, and we got to three points relatively quickly, but we couldn’t seem to find that fourth one. We had to stay focused and keep pushing.”
Sophomore Max Tchoutakian, ranked No. 74 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, dropped a tight 6-4, 7-5 decision to No. 40 Cameron Norrie on court three. Lupieri was forced to play a third set after losing a tiebreaker, and Zsiga’s match was ended on a tight tiebreaker within moments of each other. Zsiga fell 6-1, 7-6 on court five, and Lupieri’s 6-3, 6-7, 1-6 loss on court two tied up the match at 3-all.
It all came down to top-ranked Lenz and No. 53 Nick Chappell. Lenz breezed past Chappell in the opening set, but a loss of focus after leading 5-3 in the second frame forced the game into a third set. Lenz’s error off an easy shot put Chappell up 6-5 in the final set, and the same shot by Chappell forced the third set tiebreaker.
“I lost focus for 10 minutes, he played better and I think I lost six games in a row,” Lenz said. “In the end, I just tried to stay in there somehow. It’s always a gamble.”
Lenz served up a great game and took control early. A power serve forced Chappell’s return into the net, and Lenz pulled out a 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 victory to push Baylor into the championship match tomorrow. The Bears have already lost to the Sooners three times this season, so will the fourth time finally be it? Fans will find out tomorrow.
“It’s going to be a good match. It’s going to be close like the match today, and it could come down to the last match on,” Galeano said. “We’re ready to go and beat them this time.”
No. 2 Baylor faces No. 1 Oklahoma at noon tomorrow at the Hurd Tennis Center and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2.
No. 8 Baylor women’s tennis over No. 17 TCU 4-0
According to head coach Joey Scrivano, the final score did not indicate the match. At times it seemed like Baylor women’s tennis didn’t have enough firepower to pull out another sweep, but with the underclassman stepping up in the end, eighth-ranked Baylor knocked off No. 17 TCU 4-0 on Saturday afternoon at the Hurd Tennis Center.
“It was really tough; TCU competed real hard,” Scrivano said. “Every time we play them it’s a tough match. We didn’t expect anything different. Our players just came out with the right mindset, and it worked out well.”
Baylor jumped to an early lead on courts two and three while things looked shaky at the top of the lineup. Freshmen Leolia JeanJean and Kelley Anderson had a solid performance and breezed past TCU 6-1 on court two.
As senior Ema Burgic and freshman Theresa Van Zyl tried to dig themselves out of a 5-3 deficit, junior Kiah Generette and sophomore Blair Shankle wrapped up play on court three and walked away with a 6-3 victory.
Burgic struggled again in the opening set of singles play, hitting balls long and misreading her opponents shots. She turned it around in set two and forced a third set before the match was called.
Anderson finished rather quickly on court six as she defeated Seda Arantekin 6-1, 6-2.
The Roanoke, Texas has won all of her matches this weekend by a large margin, but she is not doing anything special, she said.
“We’re just trying to run the patterns that Coach tells us to do, and moving forward was the key today,” Anderson said. “Every match I’ve been playing, I’ve been working to close them faster.”
Shankle was the next off the court as she blew past Sofiko Kadzhaya 6-2, 6-2 on court three. She previously defeated the same opponent the last team both teams met in a third-set tiebreaker for the match.
Several games made a turn in TCU’s favor, and Generette and junior Rachael James-Baker’s leads were getting slimmer on courts two and four. James-Baker had a match point but was unable to clinch it against her opponent Palina Dubavets.
“Rachael competes so well,” Scrivano said. “I love her energy on the court. She’s coming off the flu, so we’re glad we can get her back in there. She’s playing well, but more importantly she’s competing well.”
Van Zyl clinched the match for Baylor after she was forced to fight off a late rally from Alexis Pereira on court five. She rallied from a 4-3 deficit late in the second set to win 6-4, 6-4 to complete the sweep over TCU.
“It wasn’t that easy; this was a tough match,” Van Zyl said. “I had to mentally tough today because there were a lot of ups and downs. As soon as I didn’t focus, she came right back at it, so I had to pull out my game and be more mentally tough. I’m happy I pulled through in the end.”
Baylor will now face Texas Tech in the Big 12 championship final tomorrow at the Hurd Tennis Center. The match will immediately follow the conclusion of the men’s final.
“If we continue to play like we practice every day and stick to the basics, then I like our chances against anybody,” Scrivano said. “The main thing for us tomorrow is that we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The women’s match will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2.
Follow @BUCodySoto on Twitter for live coverage of both matches.