By Cody Soto
Junior Felipe Rios dropped his head and shook it in disbelief after the final point on Sunday afternoon. It was not just any point, it was a championship point. Rios double faulted at match point, which brought to an end a grueling top two matchup in the Big 12 championship final.
With the win on court six, No. 1 Oklahoma edged No. 2 Baylor men’s tennis 4-3 at the Hurd Tennis Center to take the tournament title. The thrilling match spanned over five and half hours due to rain and lightning delays. Rewind an hour ago, and the score did not look like it would turn out that way, nor did it look like Baylor had a chance to win.
“We didn’t really show out in every spot; in general, we’ve done that all season long and that’s been one of our strengths. We didn’t do that [against Oklahoma],” head coach Matt Knoll said. “We got pushed everywhere, and we’ll be better for it.”
Baylor dropped only its second doubles point of the season on Sunday, putting them behind 1-0 early in the match. Junior Julian Lenz and senior Diego Galeano dominated Oklahoma on court one, winning 6-1. However, the doubles win was the only victory for the Bears of the day.
Junior Felipe Rios and sophomore Vince Schneider led 3-1 in their doubles match, but Oklahoma’s Jose Salazar and Axel Alvarez Llamas went on a 3-0 run to take the lead. Schneider and Rios dropped a close 6-4 loss at the No. 3 spot, and a 6-3 loss on court two gave Oklahoma the early lead over Baylor.
“Well, we lost 4-3, so [losing the doubles point] hurt us,” Knoll said. “It made the difference. But I was proud of how we went out. We gave ourselves a chance a win.”
The lightning and rain delay pushed back the start of singles play, and when the Bears finally did get on the courts, it was not pretty. Matches on courts one and two were the biggest disappointments.
Lenz had a chance to avenge his match-ending loss against No. 2 Alvarez Llamas at the top of the lineup, but the match was one-sided. Lenz fell 6-1, 6-4 on court one, followed by senior Tony Lupieri’s tight 6-4, 6-4 loss on court two.
Oklahoma led 3-0 with four matches remaining. If Baylor wanted to win a Big 12 title, the team would have to win the remaining matches. No. 47 sophomore Max Tchoutakian upset No. 35 Dane Webb 7-6 (3), 6-3 at the No. 3 spot in a thrilling fashion, and that sparked two other Baylor victories at the bottom of the lineup.
“We beat two of the guys that we hadn’t beaten before, so that’s a step in the right direction,” Knoll said. “We won a lot of tiebreakers, and that shows a lot of grit.”
Galeano pulled away from No. 84 Alex Ghilea to win 6-4, 7-5 on court four, and No. 110 senior Mate Zsiga fired back from a disappointing second set loss to win 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-2 to tie up the match at 3-3 with only one match remaining.
Rios took an exciting second set tiebreaker win to extend his match on court six, and while the Vina del Mar, Chile, native played a very tactically sound third set, two double faults ultimately doomed him as he lost 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 to end the match.
“Down the stretch, we didn’t play as fundamentally sound as we needed to,” Knoll said. “It’s great to play against these good people, and I think it will help us. We’ve got to do a better job at executing.”
The Bears have now lost to the top-ranked Sooners four times this season. Prior to the loss, Baylor edged No. 6 TCU 4-3 on Saturday afternoon to advance to the title game. Lenz delivered the match-clinching point in a third set tiebreaker over No. 53 Nick Chappell.
The Bears will now wait for their postseason selection in the 2015 NCAA Championships which will be revealed live at 4:30 p.m. today on NCAA.com. A selection show watch party will take place in the Stone Room of the Ferrell Center. The event is free to the public.