By Cody Soto
The Bears keep rolling along.
Two-seed Baylor men’s tennis posted a gritty 4-1 win over South Florida on Thursday evening to advance the NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday. It was not as easy as the score dictated though.
“(USF)’s team mentality is to fight until the last point, and you didn’t see anyone hang up their hats,” junior Julian Lenz said. “We knew it was going to be really tough because it’s always hard to play against someone who doesn’t give up at any point.”
The match looked anything but pleasant for the Bears at the start of doubles play. At one point, all doubles teams were trailing 2-3 at the same time. Junior Felipe Rios and sophomore Vince Schneider were the first to falter when the pair fell 8-4 on court three, forcing Baylor to play from behind quickly.
“We were a bit overwhelmed by their physicality in doubles,” head coach Matt Knoll said. “They came out and kind of punched us in the match and rocked us a bit. I’m just proud of the guys for regathering and finding a way to get back into the match.”
Baylor trailed 7-6 on the two remaining courts, but big services games forced 7-all tiebreakers in order to decide the doubles point. Lenz and senior Diego Galeano turned their match around after falling behind 5-2 on court one. The ninth-ranked duo ran away with a 7-1 tiebreaker win to knot up doubles play.
Seniors Mate Zsiga and Tony Lupieri held an early lead over the Bulls in the final game, but South Florida rattled off four straight points to take a 4-3 lead. Lupieri ended the match with an unreturnable serve to win 8-7 (4) for the early 1-0 Baylor lead.
Galeano tallied the first singles point for the Bears as he owned his match against Ignacio Gonzalez-Muniz on court four. The senior won his sixth-straight match as he took a 6-1, 6-2 victory for the 2-0 Baylor lead.
South Florida answered right back moments later as 58th-ranked Max Tchoutakian dropped a 6-3, 6-2 loss to Oliver Pramming to pull within one point. Things looked shaky on several courts for Baylor, but Rios fought off the chance of a third set with a 6-1, 6-4 win on court six.
Lenz had some trouble taking control of his second set until he held on serve to take a crucial 6-5 lead. South Florida’s Robert Cid double faulted and gave Lenz the 6-3, 7-5 win for the match-clinching point.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Knoll said. “There aren’t any easy matches here. It was an uphill battle. I’m proud of our guys for getting through it.”
Baylor now faces defending national champion and seven-seed USC in the Elite Eight. The match is slated for a 4 p.m. start on Saturday afternoon at the Hurd Tennis Center.