Mind over matter; No. 4 WTEN looks to make statement in Big 12 tournament

Baylor's women's tennis team travels to Fort Worth to face Kansas in the first round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday. Brittany Tankersley | Photo Editor

By Michael Haag | Sports Writer

The trip to Fort Worth has been made and No. 4-seed Baylor women’s tennis awaits a 9 a.m. start Friday against No. 5-seed University of Kansas in the Big 12 Championship at Bayard H. Friedman Tennis Center.

The Bears (15-7, 6-3 Big 12) are undefeated against the Jayhawks (14-9, 4-5 Big 12) this season, beating them once for the ITA Kickoff Weekend and again just over a week ago. Head coach Joey Scrivano loves where the team is right now, believing they are peaking at the right time.

“We’re playing really well, we’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Scrivano said. “We’ve been progressively getting better as the season [has] gone on, and I love the way we’re playing.”

Scrivano, now in his 20th year, said success is dictated through his squad’s approach to the match, and that they will need to be mentally prepared.

“At the end of the day, it’s the mindset of the athletes, and we have to really have awareness of what kind of mindset we’re going to need to play Kansas and to go deep in the tournament,” Scrivano said.

Recently playing KU in a grueling match has its pros and cons. On one note, you don’t have to scout for someone you haven’t seen before, but you also have an opponent that knows you like the back of their hand. For Scrivano and the team, it’s more ideal to face off against a Jayhawk team they can adequately prepare for.

“We prefer that,” Scrivano said. “I mean, honestly, information is a good thing and we have plenty of information on the Jayhawks and they of course have it on us, but I would much rather go into a match and prepare the athletes for, ‘Here’s what’s coming. Here’s the tendencies and the patterns.’ And when we typically have good information, our team uses it very well and they play well with it.”

While the team has to get past Kansas first, the six-time Big 12 Coach of the Year feels the field is wide open amid some easy favorites in Big 12 regular season champion and No. 1-seed University of Oklahoma, or the defending national champs in No. 3-seed University of Texas.

“I do think there’s other teams that can do well, including us,” Scrivano said. “Our last match against Texas, we made a statement, we improved a lot, we’re getting closer [to where we need to be] and this weekend we can break through so that’s the plan.”

Baylor is coming off a recent 4-3 home loss to the Longhorns (17-4, 8-1 Big 12), but Scrivano saw some big takeaways from a battle like that and knows it will bode well for the tournament.

“It helped us a lot,” Scrivano said. “We’ve been saying, ‘Hey, we’re right there.’ But for whatever reason, on match day, we just haven’t had the right mindset and we had the right mindset on Saturday. It showed in the scoreboard as well. So, if we continue with that mindset, just respond the right way this weekend [then] we can be hoisting that trophy on Sunday.”

Everything is on the table and the slate is set for a big weekend. The Bears have a chance to potentially host the first two rounds of the NCAA Championships with a dominant tournament, but Scrivano wants his group to keep it simple and play the game they love.

“At the end of the day, you have to keep it loose and fun, and the players have to feel like it’s not life or death to go out there and play a game,” Scrivano said. “We’re hitting a darn tennis ball over the net, so we just try to put it in perspective. They want to win and they want to be focused and locked in but at the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world.”