WACO, Texas - For the 12th consecutive season, the 13th-ranked Baylor men's tennis team is headed to the third round of the NCAA Championships, after a 4-2 victory over No. 25 Tulsa on Saturday night at the Hurd Tennis Center.
"I thought we played pretty well," head coach Matt Knoll said. "To get to the big stage is a big deal. It is important for our team to be there and certainly establish that is the expectation. Now we have to go there, recalibrate and advance. The thing that we have right now is that we are competitive at every spot. That is the sign of a good team. We don't need any one guy to win every time. We have a chance to win everywhere."
With the victory, Baylor improves to 22-5 on the season and 14-0 all-time in the second round of NCAA play. Tulsa wraps up its season with a 16-8 record.
The Bears, who were hosting first and second round action for the ninth time in the last 11 years, are now 20-0 all-time in NCAA matches in Waco.
The victory snapped a two-match losing streak to the Golden Hurricane, after Baylor lost to Tulsa in 2012 and earlier this year on Feb. 22 by a 5-2 score. The win also improves the Bears to 45-14 all-time in NCAA play.
The Golden Hurricane opened the match with an 8-6 win by Grant Ive and Tristan Jackson over Patrick Pradella and Roberto Maytin on court two. The Tulsa pairing was down 4-1, before storming back to win the next five games to take control of the contest.
Baylor's tandem of Julian Lenz and Tony Lupieri overcame a 4-1 deficit on court three to record an 8-5 victory over Japie De Klerk and Carlos Baustista. Tulsa posted their only break point in the fourth game and held serve in the fifth to go up 4-1, before Baylor closed out the match winning seven of the last eight games. That victory meant the doubles point would be decided on court 1.
Baylor's Mate Zsiga and Diego Galeano recorded a break in the seventh game against Clifford Marsland and Alejandro Espejo to go up 4-3, but Tulsa broke back in the 12th game and both teams held serve to force a tie break with the match tied 8-8. Tulsa finally clinched the doubles point with a 7-3 win in the tiebreak.
The doubles point loss was only BU's sixth of the season, while the Bears raised their record in those matches to 3-3.
"I was a little disappointed that we were up a break at both No. 1 and 2 doubles and we didn't get either one of them," Knoll said. "That made it a longer day that is for sure."
Baylor quickly bounced back from the doubles setback by winning five first-sets in singles. The bottom of the lineup keyed the rally for the Bears.
"We came out after losing the doubles point and we were tremendous," Knoll said. "The only first set we lost was the tiebreaker at No. 1. The guys down at the bottom of the lineup were just rocking and rolling. It changed the momentum of the match."
Playing in his second match in a row, after sitting out the previous two, the 68th-ranked Marko Krickovic rolled to a 6-2, 6-0 win over Jackson at the bottom of the lineup.
"I have got to give Marko credit," Knoll said. "He hasn't played a lot and the guy he was playing beat us in February. For Marko to come out and lose only two games to him was tremendous."
Galeano was soon to follow with a 6-0, 6-3 win on court 5 over Carlos Baustista to push the BU lead to 2-1.
The momentum swung completely in Baylor's favor as No. 109 Lupieri cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 triumph at the No. 4 spot to push the Bears to the brink of victory. Lupieri has now 11 matches in a row.
As Lupieri's match wrapped the 24th-ranked Pradella was trailing No. 41 De Klerk, 7-6(5), 3-3 and despite gaining the upper hand in the second-set, 4-3, the BU junior ended up falling by a 6-4 margin at the No. 1 position.
With Tulsa cutting the Baylor lead to 3-2 the remaining two matches on court were in third sets. At the No. 2 spot, the 55th-ranked Lenz was tied 4-4 in the final set with No. 56 Marsland. From there the BU freshman held serve and broke to clinch the match for the Bears with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 match victory.
"I thought tonight was the best I have seen Julian play," Knoll said. "He has got a lot of upside. He is a heck of a competitor and I was really proud of him today."
Zsiga's match on court 3 vs. Ive went unfinished.
The Bears will make their 14th overall appearance at the NCAA final site on Thursday in Urbana Ill. BU will face four-time defending NCAA champion and fourth-ranked USC at 4 p.m. at the Atkins Tennis Center.
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