Bears sweep Longhorns for Big 12 title

Adrian Boitan is dog-piled by his teammates after clinching the winning point in the 2021 Big 12 Tournament. The Bears now have an automatic bid into the NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

It was like déjà vu for Adrian Boitan as he shot an ace past 21st-ranked Eliot Spizzirri on the top court to clinch Baylor men’s tennis’ 10th Big 12 Tournament title. The Bears swept the top-seeded Texas Longhorns 4-0 on Monday at the Hurd Tennis Center.

It was the Bears’ second-consecutive tournament victory over UT, in which Boitan was also the clincher two years ago. Baylor had beat Texas twice in non-conference play but suffered its only conference loss to UT on April 15.

“I’m so proud of the guys. An amazing performance today. I think they have had very clear goals, especially at the beginning of the year. We’ve had a few setbacks throughout the season that have allowed us to continue to improve and remain hungry,” head coach Michael Woodson said. “Texas came in here a few weeks ago and beat us pretty good, and that was a good learning experience for us. It allowed our guys to have a heart-to-heart and see what they needed from each other and us whenever the chips were down. We’ve responded so well since then with two wins over TCU and now a win over Texas in a Big 12 Championship match. We didn’t want to share the Big 12 title. We wanted to stake a claim that we were the best team in the conference. Our guys certainly proved that today. It was an incredible performance up and down the lineup and the crowd was amazing as well. I am so proud of these guys.”

The Bears put their foot on the gas and never looked back, picking up the doubles point on courts one and three. No. 12-ranked Constantin Frantzen and Sven Lah put away No. 8 Spizzirri and Siem Woldeab 6-2 to open doubles as Lah slashed an ace of his own through for the final point. The British duo of Finn Bass and Charlie Broom put Baylor on the board with a 6-4 victory over Micah Braswell and Payton Holden.

“We always talk with our guys that great energy creates good tennis,” Woodson said. “I feel like they did a great job of that today especially after we came out a little bit flat yesterday in the doubles. Obviously they responded well in the singles. That was a huge focus of ours. We came out, we were courageous, we owned our shots and put a lot of pressure on the Longhorns in the doubles.”

Bouncing back form a tough loss to TCU’s Luc Fomba in the semifinal, No. 8 Matias Soto blazed through with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over No. 39 Braswell on court two to give Baylor its second point. Broom followed with another straight sets win over Chih Chi Huang 6-3, 6-2 on court five. It was the grad transfer’s third win over the Canadian junior this season as the two have faced off in each of Baylor and UT’s four meetings this spring.

It was once again down to Boitan to finish the job for the Bears. Ahead 5-3 in set two, Spizzirri battled to take back a point and make it 5-4. Boitan executed the next serve to grab the winning point on 40-15 and fell to ground on his back as the team formed a pile in celebration.

“It was a tough moment at 5-3 when I missed the match point in the second set. I wanted to finish with a great shot, but it didn’t work,” Boitan said. “At 5-4, I was determined not to lose that game. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just knew my game plan and wanted to execute. I was not thinking during the match point. My mind is blank and I try to stay in the present.”

The third-year sophomore was awarded Most Outstanding Player, the second of his career, after strong wins over No. 12 Alastair Gray and Spizzirri, becoming the first Bear to win the award twice.

With the title, Baylor has earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and will await to know its final postseason ranking during the 2021 NCAA Selection Show next Monday.