New-look men’s tennis has high hopes for season

Baylor senior Jimmy Bendeck celebrates after a point during the ITA All-American Doubles Championship on Oct. 8 in Tulsa, Okla. Bendeck is one of four seniors on the men’s tennis team, which opens its season on Friday at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center. Courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer

The Baylor men’s tennis team opens its season at home with two matches Friday against Prairie View A&M and UT Arlington at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center. The Bears will face PVA&M at 2 p.m. and UTA at 6 p.m.

A new spring season isn’t the only fresh start that the team is hopeful for. A new coach, new teammates and a sense of new opportunity are a few of the doors that are opening for the program.

Brian Boland was announced as head coach and director in May 2018, and two notable players that Boland expressed would have a big and immediate impact on the team include freshmen Adrian Boitan and Finn Bass.

Becoming a part of a reinvented program, senior Jimmy Bendeck said the team has a changed mindset and excitement going into the season opener.

“It was really tough in the beginning. When you’re used to a certain culture, a certain place for three years, you get accustomed to it,” Bendeck said. “I’ve learned that [winning] isn’t what [Boland] is focused on. He’s focused on getting better each and every day and building a culture of professional individuals and a bunch of people who are grateful and humble.”

The emphasis on leadership and team development is important to the matchup against two Texas universities this week.

Though Baylor had an impressive season of 21-10 last year compared to Prairie View A&M (4-26) and UT Arlington (10-13), Boland understands that the Baylor men are still developing and that the upcoming two opponents have multiple strengths to keep an eye on.

“Texas-Arlington is a pretty strong team and has some players at the top that can compete with anyone in the country,” Boland said. “I think Prairie View A&M also just gives us a chance to play a lot of players and see how they adapt to the competition.

Boland said he believes in his team and their ability to improve throughout the season.

“I believe this [Baylor] team has the potential to do some great things,” Boland said. “It’s really hard to say, because it’s so early in the season right now, and there’s some things that have to come together throughout the course of this spring […] but I certainly think this team can play with anybody. There’s no question about it.”

As four players from the 11-man roster prepare to play their final season opener and get ready to graduate this year, the young team has a positive outlook on the future of the program.

Bendeck attested to that, saying how his new teammates have brought intensity. He said he has watched their development and improvement from each other and hopes to see that throughout the season and for years to come.

“It sort of makes you think, as a senior, we want to be almost giving them an example,” Bendeck said. “In reality, they’ve come to practice and been an example for us, even. They’re excited to be in college. They’re excited to play tennis and play in the college environment. They’ve come out and worked every single day. It’s been impressive.”

Following the season opener, the Bears will face the University of Pennsylvania at 11 a.m. Monday at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center.