By Max Calderone | Sports Writer
After a gauntlet of a conference schedule in which the Baylor men’s tennis team went just 1-4, the Bears are ready to make a run at the conference title.
The No. 23 ranked Bears will take on No. 17 Oklahoma State in the opening round of the Big 12 Championship tournament today in Austin.
Fourth-year junior Will Little said the team is refreshed and feeling well prepared entering the weekend.
“We’re playing with a mentality that we’ve got a fresh start here; we’ve got a lot to play for,” Little said. “They’re all our rivals so we’ve got a chance to get some revenge on some of these teams that beat us and we’re really excited about it.”
An 18-8 record but 1-4 mark in conference gave Baylor the fifth seed in the conference, one spot behind the Cowboys, who defeated the Bears back on April 8 in a close 4-3 matchup. Baylor had double-match point in the contest earlier this month.
Head coach Matt Knoll said it’s a great opportunity for his team to get another shot at a match that slipped away earlier this season.
“We certainly feel like we left one on the table,” Knoll said about the previous matchup with Oklahoma State. “We had match-match points against them up at their place, so we walked out of the building with a bad taste in our mouths and now we get a chance to prove that we’ve improved and we’re looking forward to it. I think it’s a great draw for us just in terms that we lost a close match to them at their place and now we get a chance to get them again.”
A win over the Cowboys would give the Bears a date with the conference’s best team, No. 6 TCU, on Saturday. However, Little said the team is taking it one match at a time and focusing squarely on Oklahoma State.
“We know they’re a good team and we know we’re a good team,” Little said. “If we go out there and play with the same mentality as last time, we know it’s going to be close. We’ve been practicing for this team for the last few days. I think the outcome will go our way this time.”
Knoll said the competition this weekend will be fierce, but after that, he’ll be rooting for the rest of the Big 12 teams as they venture on into the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t know if there’s another conference that has every team in the NCAA’s. We don’t have teams that are on the borderline or on the bubble, fighting to do well in the conference tournament. Everybody’s in,” Knoll said. “Hopefully one of our teams in the league will make a big run at the NCAA’s and really have a chance to do something and hopefully it’ll be us.”
Baylor and Oklahoma State will kick off the weekend at 9 a.m. today, with the winner advancing to face TCU at noon Saturday. The championship match is set for Sunday at a time to be announced.