By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
The ITA National Team Indoor Championships can be a humbling experience if you're not ready for it.
"You don't want to be there if you don't deserve to be there," said Baylor coach Matt Knoll, whose 12th-ranked Bears (6-1) face No. 5 Stanford (6-0) at 5:30 p.m. CDT in Seattle, Wash. "If you go up there and get ripped up three matches in a row, it can be tough. You've got to go there and be good enough to win matches. We're good enough to win matches. So, it's perfect for us.
"Nobody's calling us the favorite in this tournament, but we're certainly going to have opportunities to win."
Bouncing back from a 4-3 loss at Ole Miss, Baylor returned home to defeat Purdue (5-2) and South Florida (4-0) last weekend as tune-ups for the indoor championships.
"It was good to play. It's hard to get better without playing," Knoll said. "Tennis is a competition sport, so we need to get out and play as many matches as we can. Two great matches, we got to play a lot of tennis, and it gave us some momentum going into this tournament."
"I think some guys have certainly stepped up, some of them have taken a step back, and we're starting to get a feel for what we've got," Knoll said. "This is something that will continue to evolve over the course of the year and even over the course of this tournament. I think you'll see some different guys in the singles and doubles lineup. We just have to figure out who are guys are. We're not quite there yet."
Sophomore Bjoern Petersen has been one of the constants in the lineup, settling into the No. 2 spot behind Johannes Schretter. He lost to a pair of top-25 players against Florida State and Ole Miss before rolling to straight-set wins in last weekend's two matches.
"I was playing really well in the preseason and the first tournament, and then I changed to a new racket, which probably wasn't the smartest decision," Petersen said. "So, two days before the matches, I decided to switch back. I trusted my forehand again, I trusted my serve again, and those are the two most important parts of my game."
Knoll said, "You have to take a step back and realize who he's playing."
"He's not really getting any favors in terms of what the competition has been for him, and he's not going to get any moving forward," Knoll said. "I don't think he's a guy that's going to go out and win every match. That's not what he needs to do right now. He needs to just continue to improve and appreciate the level of competition he's playing and enjoy that and make that a real positive."
Guaranteed at least three matches in the 16-team tournament, Baylor would play the winner between fourth-seeded Georgia and No. 13 seed Columbia if the Bears get past Stanford in the opening round. Live scoring and video streaming for the matches are available at www.huskies.com.
WACO, Texas - The 12th-seeded Baylor men's tennis team will compete in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship Friday through Monday in Seattle, Wash.
BU (6-1) will face fifth-seeded Stanford at 5:30 p.m. CT in the opening round of action to be held at the Seattle Tennis Club.
The Bears, ranked No. 12 in the latest ITA team rankings, will be taking part in the event for the fifth-straight year and the 15th time overall. BU's best finish at the championships came in 2005 when the Bears knocked off four ranked teams to win the indoor championship title. BU's all-time record at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships is 22-21.
Last season, a 13th-seeded Baylor squad went 1-2 at the event hosted in Charlottesville, dropping its first match against fourth-seeded California before upsetting 10th-seeded Georgia in the consolation round. The team fell to ninth-seeded USC in its final contest of the event.
Baylor is led by a quartet of ranked players on the singles side. Junior Johannes Schretter and sophomore Bjoern Petersen are ranked No. 24 and No. 64 in the country and both boast a dual-match record of 3-2 in singles play, while freshman Sven Lah and redshirt junior Will Little are ranked No. 89 and No. 104 with 5-0 dual-match marks.
BU's matchup with Stanford will be the 13th all-time meeting between the two teams and the first since the Cardinal won its first match of the series over the Bears in 2012. Baylor leads the all-time series 11-1 with all of the matches coming under head coach Matt Knoll.
Stanford, No. 5 in the ITA team rankings, enters the weekend with a 6-0 record on the season with four wins over ranked opponents, including No. 7 UCLA, No. 8 USC and a road win at No. 10 Illinois last Saturday.
The Cardinal has six players ranked, including Tom Fawcett at No. 33, Jack Barber at No. 72, Axel Gellar at No. 75, and David Wilczynski is No. 117. Fawcett and Gellar combine to be No. 32 in doubles along with Sameer Kumar and Michael Genender at No. 55.
The field of this year's ITA Indoor Championships consists of two teams from the Big 12 with Oklahoma State and Baylor claiming the ninth and 12th seeds, respectively.
Baylor is guaranteed to play three matches in the event with a fourth contest coming on Monday for the title if BU wins the first three. If the Bears win Friday's match, they will face the winner of No. 5 North Carolina and No. 12 seed Georgia in the quarterfinal round scheduled for Saturday.
The Bears advanced to this weekend's event by blanking UNLV, 4-0, on Jan. 27 and then besting then-No. 21 Florida State, 4-1, on Jan. 28 in the finals of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Waco.
In its last match out, Baylor swept past South Florida, 4-0, on Sunday in Waco.
Live streaming will be available for matches at the Nordstrom Tennis Center only while live scoring will be available at both competition sites.
For the latest information on the Baylor men's tennis team and live updates from this weekend, follow the team on social media: @BaylorMTennis.