Bears confront Longhorns in rematch to open national indoor championship

Fourth-year junior Matias Soto swings his racket out, preparing to hit a ball back to his opponent, during Baylor's match against TCU on Jan. 31 at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center. Soto has three ranked wins under his belt so far this season. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Jarrod Leicher | Reporter

No. 4 Baylor men’s tennis will kick-off the 2021 ITA DI National Men’s Team Indoor Championship facing No. 5 Texas in the opening round on Friday. The Bears defeated the Longhorns 4-1 on Jan. 30 in Austin. However, interim head coach Michael Woodson will be looking at Friday’s match as a new challenge.

“I think it’s going to be a lot different this time, so our guys will have to be ready,” Woodson said, “This is just another great opportunity for our guys to go out and compete against the best in the country.”

Six other teams will be participating in the championship, with all of the visiting teams being ranked in the top 10 nationally. Along with Baylor and Texas, No. 1 USC, No. 2 North Carolina, No. 3 TCU, No. 7 Virginia, No. 10 Tennessee and Illinois are participating in the event.

According to fourth-year junior Matias Soto, the players are optimistic about the championship and the opportunity they have to play among the best teams in the country.

“We feel grateful for the opportunity to play again,” Soto said. “If we communicate well, and we know what we are doing on the courts, then I think we’ll do well the rest of the season.”

Baylor has had poor luck with the doubles sets this season, losing the point in three of the last five matches. The Bears dropped the doubles point to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M, but bounced back in singles.

“In different situations we’ve won at every spot and lost at every spot; that’s doubles. It’s a bit of a coin flip,” Woodson said. “It is nice to start at 0-1 and have to battle back, and we’ve had great experience with that over the past couple weeks.”

Having faced UT once already — taking the Longhorns’ spot in the rankings as they were then the No. 4 team while Baylor was ranked sixth — the Bears know they can’t be complacent. Graduate transfer Spencer Furman said the team is preparing for another tough match.

“We know they are going to be fired up,” Furman said. “We know that they know how we play, so they’re going to come out with different things and probably make adjustments, so we have to be ready for that.”

Baylor will face off against Texas at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Champaign, Ill. The Bears have three guaranteed matches in the tournament and will play either USC or Illinois on Saturday depending on the result of Friday’s match.