By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer
As decided Monday evening, No. 3 Baylor men’s tennis (26-3) will be facing Abilene Christian University (13-11) at 6 p.m. on Friday at the Hurd Tennis Center in its 24th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance. Along with ACU, the Bears will host the University of Tulsa and Texas A&M University for the first two rounds of the tournament.
“Abilene is one of the best, most improved teams in the region,” head coach Micheal Woodson said. “We had the opportunity to play them earlier this year and they’re a totally different team than they were last year. I’m really excited to see them have the success that they had in conference. I think Juan [Nuñez] is a great coach and he’s got great players. So really happy for them and I know it’s gonna be a really difficult match.”
After claiming their third consecutive Big 12 Championship title last weekend against No. 1 Texas Christian University, the green and gold are coming into the tournament hungry for more. Woodson said the team is confident, but each match will still be a challenge.
“It’s a whole new tournament,” Woodson said. “We all have our records wiped clean and we start over, so our guys are going to have to earn it again. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot for sure as the top seed. We’re going to take the confidence and the momentum that we have, but can’t show it early. We need to just be business right away.”
If the Bears secure a win against the Wildcats on Friday, they will play Saturday against either Texas A&M or Tulsa. Baylor has recently seen these squads, playing Tulsa earlier this year and A&M in February 2021.
“Tulsa and A&M, that’s going to be a war,” Woodson said. “Two really good teams that have great depth, coaches with great experience have their players ready, so it’s going to be difficult.”
Baylor had a strong run in the 2021 NCAA tournament, only falling short in the finals to then-No. 1 University of Florida. Woodson said this team is ready for the test of the 2022 tournament.
“[The team is] excited,” Woodson said. “They have the confidence to know they can make a deep run if they all play well and things come together, but at the same time we really aren’t trying to look past Friday at 6.”
The Bears are hoping for a big win at home on Friday to allow them to advance to the second round in the tournament and ultimately bring home a national championship.
“It is an advantage to play our home courts in front of our fans in a comfortable environment and these matches aren’t easy. We are going to get everybody’s best shot and the fans make a difference,” Woodson said. “Any fan that is available that can make it it’s 100% worth it and it will give these guys the boost that they need to get it done.”