By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer
After a tough loss to now-No. 1 Texas Christian University last weekend, No. 4 Baylor men’s tennis looks to redeem itself as the team faces Oklahoma State University on Friday and the University of Oklahoma on Sunday on their home courts. The weekend will be packed with familiar opponents, unpredictable weather, some lasts for Baylor seniors and, if all goes according to Baylor’s plan, two wins for the Bears.
“I think it is more about losing at home, you never want to do that. You know, in front of the whole crowd. I think it’s definitely going to help us for the next one. You don’t ever want to lose twice at home in a row,” Lah said. “So I think that’s good fuel for the upcoming matches. It’s a conference [match], it is going to be tough. Some of the guys from Oklahoma State’s team have been here in the past, so I’m sure they are going to come here and try to beat us as badly as possible. But, I think it goes both ways. Having advantage at home is always good.”
As the Bears (19-3, 1-1 Big 12) look to play Oklahoma State on Friday, there will be some familiar faces on the Cowboys’ squad. Junior Alex Garcia and sophomore Joseph Chen traded their green and gold for orange and black at the conclusion of last season. This weekend they will face some of their previous teammates.
“We have some ex-Baylor Bears, but it’s all cordial,” assistant coach Izak van der Merwe said. “Both me and Micheal [Woodson] are very happy for them that they get to play. To compete against them is going to be maybe a little bit of a challenge, but that is just something you have to do as a tennis player. Sometimes you have to play against friends … it’s not something uncommon and we are looking forward to it and seeing how they perform.”
The last time the Bears met the Cowboys was in April 2021 when they took a 4-2 win, and out of their last 10 meetings, Baylor has won seven.
On Sunday, the match against OU will be special as the seniors play in their last home game. After almost five years with the Baylor tennis program, senior Matias Soto will say goodbye.
“Hopefully, I don’t cry, but it’s going be hard,” Soto said. “I think it’s going to be nice for [the] last time home, but it’s a special day. That’s why my family has come. Hopefully, I can get everyone involved. It’s going to be an important day for me, senior day. We’ve been here for so long, almost five years.”
Soto and the Bears saw the Sooners earlier in February when they won in Norman, Okla., 4-3. The conditions in Waco will definitely be different than those experienced in the Wadley Indoor Tennis Pavilion though. There are some concerns regarding wind this weekend. However, one of the advantages of playing at home is practicing in those conditions.
“I think we’ve had enough practices where it’s windy for five minutes and it kind of stops and then the direction changes, so I think we got used to it,” Lah said.
In agreement with Lah, assistant coach van der Merwe said the wind is more of a mental game than anything.
“Our guys do get a lot of reps in the wind, but it’s still kind of pushes you mentally more than anything,” van der Merwe said. “We have to take some time to prepare for the wind and mentally prepare, but our guys have done a good job in the past. We’ve played a lot of matches in tough conditions in the past.”
van der Merwe said in the Big 12, if the wind gusts for over an hour above 25 mph, the matches will be moved inside. However, the conditions should not be at that level and therefore he expects to be playing outdoors this weekend.
Regardless of wind conditions, matches will start with Baylor challenging Oklahoma State at 6 p.m. on Friday in the Hurd Tennis Center, and the Bears will return to their home courts on Sunday to face Oklahoma at 1 p.m.