By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor men’s tennis is set to open its dual season on Saturday.
The Bears participated in the Sherwood Collegiate Cup last weekend in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The opening tournament consisted of a singles and doubles bracket, but did not feature a team result.
Head coach Matt Knoll said the tournament has been a great opener for Baylor because it provides an opportunity for great competition and helps ease the team’s way back into the season after a break over the holidays.
“That tournament has been a godsend for us. It’s great competition and we get to go out in the spring and play some rust off. Most guys go home for the holidays and don’t play much, so it’s fantastic,” Knoll said.
Junior Jimmy Bendeck said the most important part about playing the Sherwood Collegiate Cup is that it helps the younger players rid themselves of nerves and provides good experience heading into the dual season.
“Going to California is important because it gets the nerves out even though the first dual match, there are still some nerves. But it’s just last week so it was recent, so you get some matches under your belt. Everyone plays a lot of matches because no matter what, you have to play matches,” Bendeck said. “It was a really good experience for the guys, you get to travel and play in an environment that isn’t perfect or comfortable so it helps a lot.”
One of the key questions facing Baylor heading into this weekend’s doubleheader will be the rotation and lineup. Four seniors graduated from the team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16, and the Bears welcome four freshmen to this year’s roster.
This weekend will give Knoll a chance to see who emerges from an even playing field and to see who fits into the singles and doubles rotations heading into the more competitive matches.
“We’re trying to figure out who our guys are. We’ve got a little bit of depth and we have to figure out the guys that we’re going to go with once the competitive matches come,” Knoll said. “We’ve got some guys that have some experience that we kind of know what we’re going to get with, but we also have some young guys that are very talented and are going to contribute for sure, but figuring out who they are and at what position they’re going to contribute.”
Depth to the roster and uncertainty of the rotation has helped spark competition among team members during practice. Bendeck said that this competition forces everyone to continue to up their level of play, but in the end, the ultimate goal is supporting one another as a team.
“Competition is important, it definitely fuels us during practice, it fuels us to get better everyday because we might lose our spot,” Bendeck said. “What’s important is that our team is competitive but in the end, we are a team that went into match day, whoever plays we are going to support them full blast.”
One of the players that Knoll and Baylor will rely on is junior Johannes Schretter. Schretter is coming off a successful sophomore campaign where he went 21-4 overall in singles and 13-2 from the No. 3 position. In the fall, he went 8-6 and with two wins over ranked opponents, bumping his ranking to No. 11 entering the spring season.
Knoll noted that his individual workouts have been excellent this spring and that is a sign that he is ready to step into a new position for the Bears.
“That’s him maturing and getting more comfortable where he is and more honest about where he needs to be with his game,” Knoll said. “He’s starting to make a lot of progress. I’m excited about him taking on a role of playing higher in the lineup and being out there on court one.”
No. 11 Baylor will take on the University of Missouri-Kansas City twice on Saturday. The first match is set for 2 p.m. with the second one beginning at 6 p.m.