Men’s tennis tops longtime rival UT in last home Big 12 match

Felipe Rios, one of two seniors honored at Tuesday's Senior Night match against Texas, serves. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

The No. 48 Bears pulled the upset against the No. 17 Texas Longhorns Tuesday night at the Hurd Tennis Center, keeping the Bears’ NCAA tournament hopes alive.

“We have had some adversity. Some guys have had to step into different roles. But the thing is, we just played hard,” said head coach Matt Knoll. “As a coach, you want to be on them. But when you step back, they are just playing so hard. The guys were really giving all they had, and you feel like if you keep doing that, some of these close matches are going to go your way. Today it went our way.”

With fans showing up to honor seniors Felipe Rios and Julian Lenz in their last Big 12 home match, the Bears pulled out the win to continue on their win streak against the Longhorns, which has lasted since 2011.

“The entire match I was like, ‘I really want to get the W for the team today and, well, it’s basically my last big home match, so leaving on a good note is always a good feeling,’” Lenz said.

Junior Max Tchoutakian and freshman Tommy Podvinski, Baylor’s No. 1 doubles team, were down a break early, but battled back to take the lead 4-3, and, ultimately, the set 6-4.

“I think today everybody played pretty good, and, as always, we know against Texas it is a big rivalry, and we are really proud to beat them tonight,” Tchoutakian said.

The No. 2 doubles for the Bears went down early and were unable to come back, losing the set 6-2.

At No. 3 doubles, Lenz and junior Tyler Stayer got the break and held serve to go up 4-2.

However, not backing down the Longhorns got the break back to tie it at four games all, but the Bears answered right back as Lenz held serve to take the match and give the Bears the doubles point.

“We need every point we can get, and we got that one,” Knoll said. “An amazing comeback from Max and Tommy. For them to come back and beat another ranked team – great effort from them.”

Up 1-0 already the Bears were determined to pull things through on senior night.

Rios came out attacking in singles, cruising to a 6-3, 6-4 win.

With Stayer and Podvinski losing it was going to come down to the more experienced players to come up clutch.

Continuing from doubles action, playing No. 1 singles for the Bears, Lenz started on top by taking an early break and the first set 6-2.

However, it was a turn of the tide as Lenz got down a break early in the second set, but battled back to take the second 6-4.

After taking the break to go up 4-2 in the third, nationally ranked Longhorn George Goldhoff kept fighting to tie things up at 4-4. No stranger to being down, Lenz broke right back to give the Bears the lead.

“I played really bad the last five weeks probably, but I’ve been playing better,” Lenz said. “I was focusing on more in practice and it is paying off. I’m not playing at my highest level right now, but we still have a few weeks to step and get it going. Today I guess it was that I was the more experienced guy, and I knew I wanted to get that last hold at four all and get into his head which I think I did.”

Ranked nationally at no. 86, Tchoutakian was tested in the second set after winning the first 6-4 and losing the second 5-7. Going into the third, both players continues to battle, but it was Tchoutakian that came out on top 6-2 to take the match and give the Bears the win over the Longhorns overall, 4-2.

“During the first two and a half sets, my opponent was playing really good,” Tchoutakian said. “I just kept fighting and trying to hold my serve at 4-2. The crowd helped me a lot today. They pushed me, and I am really happy to clinch that win tonight.”

The Bears host a double-header at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at the Hurd Tennis Center.