By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
Nearly five hours after start time, No. 21 Baylor women’s tennis pushed past No. 25 University of Kansas 4-3 Sunday afternoon at the Hurd Tennis Center. It was the second time the two teams have met at the Hurd this season, dating back to Jan. 28 when the Bears won 4-1.
This victory ensured a protected home court, as it came after knocking off Kansas State University 4-1 on Friday.
Amid the wind advisory in Waco, the Bears (15-6, 6-2 Big 12) were able to obtain their second top-25 win of the year, this time over the Jayhawks (13-9, 3-5 Big 12). Head coach Joey Scrivano was thrilled with the group’s performance, as it came down the final contest on court six with junior Paula Barañano emerging victorious.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match, it always is when we play the Jayhawks. But the conditions today were just an added variable that the athletes had to deal with,” Scrivano said. “I felt like our team handled it very well. They compensated, they adjusted to the conditions very well and this is why you practice in winds so you can be prepared for situations like this.”
Freshmen duo Anita Sahdiieva and Ana Carmen Zamburek notched the first doubles match 6-3 on court two to give Baylor the early momentum. Freshman Alina Shcherbinina, paired with junior Isabella Harvison, were next to clean up with a 6-3 victory of their own to secure the doubles point.
However, singles play was filled with drama. Sahdiieva pummeled her opponent for the opening solo success, 6-1, 6-0. After a couple losses to tie the overall score at 2-2, senior Mel Krywoj retook the tally with a 6-4, 6-4 win on court three. It all came down to a pair of tight contests to determine Baylor’s fate. KU knotted the count after defeating Harvison in a grueling 5-7, 7-6, 3-6 three-set match that saw Harvison fight to a 12-10 tiebreaker win in the second set.
And then there was one; Barañano on court six with the entire game in her hands. The Argentina native won the first set in a tiebreaker, but dropped the second in another tiebreaker. She found herself up 5-3 in the final set as her opponent hurled her volley out of play and sent the Bears into a frenzy.
“Pauli’s a warrior, she’s always been a warrior. She loves being in those situations and we’re proud of her,” Scrivano said. “She could have easily let the match points get to her but she did a great job of just refocusing, responding, and getting her mindset ready for that third set. She deserves all the credit. If she didn’t have that mental discipline, we wouldn’t have the win today. So all the credit to her.”
Barañano knew it came down to her in the end but said she was more proud of the entire squad for their play.
“It was a team win. We started with a tough doubles point [and] the girls did amazing. Everybody was in a fight. I’m proud of my team,” Barañano said. “It came down to me, but I fought until the end because I love my girls. [I’m] very proud.”
It’s hard to beat a team twice in a season, something the Bears just accomplished. Scrivano said the group did a good job of playing their game and outplaying a KU squad that had seen them once this year.
“It’s never easy to beat a quality team twice and to see the Jayhawks again late in the season, they definitely made some really good adjustments,” Scrivano said. “Credit to them, they came out and they threw some really big punches at us and our players just absorbed them, we fought back. It’s a great team win today.”
Baylor will stick around to host No. 4 University of Texas at 2 p.m. on Saturday for Senior Day. Barañano is ready for another tough battle versus another great team.
“We’re going to recover and next week practice like always,” Barañano said. “[We’re] ready for a fight again.”