March 3, 2009
Waco, Texas - -
The 12th-ranked Baylor men's tennis team will begin their quest for an eighth straight Big 12 championship and their ninth in the last 10 years at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Baylor Tennis Center. The Bears open conference play with a bout against the 48th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. After that match Baylor will host Division III opponent Mary-Hardin Baylor at 7 p.m.
"We understand it is a Big 12 match and it has some significance," Baylor head coach Matt Knoll. "The other thing about this match is it get us to Spring Break, where we take a few days off, kind of a halftime if you will. We want to finish this part of the season on a positive."
The double header is the second for the Bears this season after sweeping No. 6 UCLA, 4-3, and St. Edward's, 7-0, on Feb. 22.
The Oklahoma match starts a string of 10 consecutive matches at home for Baylor. Going into the Big 12 opener, Knoll feels his team still had some work to do.
"Clearly, Texas has the best team," Knoll said. "In terms of where we are compared to past teams, we are not as strong. At this point we have not shown we are an elite team. We are a team to be reckoned with, in that we are dangerous. We are capable of beating a lot of people, but when you see 0-7's a couple of times, you know it is not all put together. We have got to keep getting better."
The Bears come into the matches with an 8-4 season record, but fell to No. 3 Ohio State, 7-0, in Columbus last Sunday to stop a three match win streak.
Baylor is 6-0 in home matches this season after defeating No. 67 Utah, 7-0, No. 58 Georgia Tech, 6-1, No. 62 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 7-0, No. 6 UCLA, 4-3, St. Edwards, 7-0 and No. 9 Mississippi 4-3.
The Sooners will be the 11th opponent that the Bears have faced this season that has been ranked. Baylor is 6-4 in the first ten contests.
"You are not going to win the Big 12 if you are not winning home matches," Knoll said. "The thing about a single round-robin is you don't get a second chance."
Knoll made adjustments in both his singles and doubles lineups in the Bears' last match. In doubles, he moved Denes Lukacs and Maros Horny up to play at the No. 2 spot, while dropping Marc Bruche and Attila Bucko down to the No. 3 slot. The No. 1 doubles team of Jordan Rux and David Galic remained stable.
On Wednesday the Bears will look to break a two-match losing streak at the doubles' point. Baylor is 16-17 in doubles' matches this season.
In singles, Knoll dropped his freshman, Julian Bley, who had played at the No. 3 position for the Bears in 10 of the 11 matches this spring season. Bley was just 1-5 in his last six matches. With the change Mueller, No.90 Bucko and Horny all shifted up one position and Bruche was inserted in the No. 6 position.
The Bears are led by eighth-ranked Lukacs, a junior, who is 6-3 and No. 30 Rux, who is 6-6 in the spring.
The Sooners come into the Wednesday matchup sporting a 6-3-spring record. In their last action, Oklahoma defeated No. 75 UNLV 6-1 on the road Saturday, Feb. 28.
"I was really impressed they beat TCU, 5-2, and we know TCU is a pretty good team," Knoll said. "I think their results have been a little up and down, which is probably because they are so young."
OU has only one ranked player, No. 97 Andrei Daescu, a junior, but Blake Boswell, a junior transfer from Boise State, has also played well for the Sooners. In total there are three freshman, two sophomores, two juniors and one senior on the Sooners squad.
"Their No. 1 player, Daescu, beat us last year, he beat Lars (Poerschke)," Knoll said. "He is a very good athlete."
The Bears are 14-14 all-time versus Oklahoma, but Baylor has won the last 13 matches dating back to 1998.
The Bears' second opponent, Mary-Hardin Baylor is 0-1 on the season. The Crusaders fell to Hardin-Simmons on Feb. 28, 7-2.
"You'll see David Galic in that match," Knoll said. "We hope that he will play well, and then we get a little more time and he starts becoming more of an option for us."
Baylor is 3-2 against the Crusaders all-time, but the two teams have not met since 1997, when Baylor won 7-0.
Live stats for the two matches can be found on Baylorbears.com.