May 21, 2007
Athens, Ga. -
In a marathon match that had numerous swings, Baylor's men's tennis team dropped a 4-3 decision in the NCAA Championship semifinals to 10th-ranked Illinois at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Georgia.
The loss ends Baylor's season with a record of 28-4 and snapped its 10-match win streak. Baylor is now to 29-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and is now 2-2 in semifinal matches.
The doubles should have been an indication as to how the match was going to go. At court three Baylor sophomores David Galic and Matt Brown claimed an 8-5 win over GD Jones and Marc Spicijaric. That was the only relatively quick match of doubles. Lars Poerschke and Michal Kokta trailed 1-4 on court one but stormed back to tie the match. Each team held serve the rest of the way to an 8-8 tie. In the tiebreaker the Bear duo again fell behind 1-4 before rallying back to a 6-6 tie. However, the eighth-ranked tandem of Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe scored two straight points to claim victory and end Poerschke and Kokta's seven-match win streak. The deciding match came down to court two where Matija Zgaga and Denes Lukacs would end regulation play against Brandon Davis and Ruben Gonzales at 8-8. The Georgia duo went up 3-0 and never let the Bears get closer than two points, posting a 7-3 tiebreak victory, which gained Illinois the doubles point.
For the second straight match, two freshmen gained points for the Bears. Dominik Mueller and Lukacs dominated their opponents on court five and six, respectively. Mueller was the first off the court when he downed GD Jones 6-2, 6-3 and Lukacs walked off next with a 6-4, 6-1 triumph over Billy Heiser.
After winning the first set 6-2, Zgaga, a senior, dropped the next two by the same 6-2 scores to allow Illinois to even the score at two apiece. Poerschke, ranked No. 11, did just the opposite of Zgaga, he dropped his first set to fifth-ranked Anderson 2-6 but totally dominated him in the next two, posting 6-1, 6-4 wins to put Baylor up 3-2.
At this point, it was on the shoulders of Kokta on court two and Brown on court three. Kokta, ranked No. 19, had won the first set against 22nd-ranked Rowe but lost the second set in a tiebreaker. Brown had lost the first set in a tiebreak 7-6(4) and pushed the second set to a tiebreaker as well, which he eventually dropped 7-6(6). With the match knotted at 3-3 and only Kokta still on the court, the pressure was squarely on his shoulders. When Brown's match ended Kokta was down 2-5 in the third set. Rowe quickly won the deciding game and clinched the match to allow Illinois to move on to the finals to face the winner of the Georgia/Virginia match.
""It was a story of missed opportunities for us. You have to give Illinois credit because they fought hard the whole way and never quit. We just didn't cross through the finish line as well as I would have liked," said head coach Matt Knoll.
"After I lost the second-set tiebreaker, I could feel the momentum swinging Illinois' way," said Michal Kokta. "It came down to execution. In the first and second sets, I executed better. In the third set, he started passing me and it got away from me. ... I wanted to end my career in the finals, maybe playing against Georgia in an electric atmosphere. I know this will be with me for a long time."
No. 10 Illinois 4, No. 4 Baylor 3
Singles - Order of Finish: 5, 6, 4, 1, 3, 2
1. No. 11 Lars Poerschke (BU) def. No. 5 Kevin Anderson (ILL) - 2-6, 6-1, 6-4
2. No. 22 Ryan Rowser (ILL) def. No. 19 Michal Kokta (BU) - 4-6, 7-5(9), 6-2
3. Marc Spicijaric (ILL) def. Matt Brown (BU) - 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6)
4. Ruben Gonzales (ILL) def. No.120 Matija Zgaga (BU) 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
5. No. 113 Dominik Mueller (BU) def. GD Jones (ILL) - 6-2, 6-3
6. Denes Lukacs (BU) def. Billy Heiser (ILL) - 6-4, 6-1
Doubles - Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2
1. No. 8 Anderson/Rowe (ILL) def. No. 60 Poerschke/Kokta (BU) - 9-8 (6)
2. Brandon Davis/Gonzales (ILL) def. Lukacs/Zgaga (BU) - 9-8 (3)
3. Brown/David Galic (BU) def. Jones/Spicijaric (ILL) - 8-5