March 11, 2009
Waco, Texas -
In the midst of arguably the toughest stretch of their 2009 spring schedule and a nine-match home stand, the 11th-ranked Baylor men's tennis team will look to upset the No. 1 team in the nation Friday when they take on Virginia at 6 p.m. in Waco.
"We are going to have to come out and play great tennis," Baylor head coach Matt Knoll said. "The challenge is executing and attacking the opportunities that we have and staying positive the whole time. I think if we can bring the right energy level, then we feel like we have a great chance."
The Bears are 10-4 on the season going into Friday's match-up and riding a two-match win streak, after sweeping a home doubleheader last Wednesday against Mary-Hardin Baylor and No. 48 Oklahoma. However, with Spring Break and inclement weather, the Bears have not been able to follow a normal practice schedule this week.
"The guys are fresh. The guys are energized," Knoll said. "I think we are really excited for what's coming up. We will be ready to go."
Baylor is 8-0 this season at the Baylor Tennis Center with wins over 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, No. 9 Mississippi 4-3, No. 48 Oklahoma, 6-1 and Mary-Hardin Baylor, 7-0.
Baylor now has a home win streak of 12 matches, dating back to a loss on April 16, 2008 to No. 7 Texas, 4-3.
"As funny as it sounds I think it has been more about how bad we have been on the road, then about how good we have been at home," Knoll said. "We are encouraged about how we have done there(at home) and we are excited about all the good matches we have coming up."
It will be the first time the Bears will play a No. 1 ranked team since losing 4-2 to No. 1 Virginia on May 18, 2008 in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the NCAA Championship Quarterfinals. Since Matt Knoll took over at Baylor in 1997, the Bears have never hosted a No. 1 team and they have never beaten a No.1 ranked team, going 0-4 in such matches.
"There is no pressure at all and I think that is one of the advantages," Knoll said about playing the No. 1 team. "We know their team very well. We have played them every year for a long time."
The Cavaliers will be the Bears' sixth top-10 ranked opponent of the season. Baylor is 2-3 in the five previous matches after falling to third-ranked Ohio State, 7-0 on March 1, downing No. 9 Mississippi, 4-3 on Feb. 27, defeating No. 6 UCLA, 4-3 on Feb. 22, tripping against eighth-ranked Tennessee, 4-0 on Feb. 13, and dropping a 7-0 decision to No. 10 Florida on Jan. 25.
In doubles play the Bears have a 21-18 record in dual match competition. Recently, the Bears have gone with the duo of David Galic and Jordan Rux at No. 1 doubles. The pair is 2-3, after winning their last two matches. At No. 2 doubles Baylor head coach Matt Knoll has lately been playing Attila Bucko and Marc Bruche, who are 3-4 this spring. Baylor's hottest doubles' pairing is at the No. 3 spot as Denes Lukacs and Maros Horny are 4-1, when partnered together. The Bears are 7-0 when they win the doubles point, but just 3-4 when they fall in doubles.
"We are happy that we are getting better," Knoll said. "I think it is clear we are improving in doubles. I think we will continue to improve. We have spent a little more time on it and the guys are understanding the concepts of positioning a lot better."
In singles, ITA All-American and eighth-ranked Lukacs has led the Bears to a 51-29 mark in dual match competition. The junior is 8-3 with all of his matches coming at the No. 1 singles slot. In the No. 2 position, No. 30 Rux is 7-6, at the third spot freshman Julian Bley returned to Bears line-up last Wednesday to win both of his matches and raise his season record to 7-6. Two juniors occupy the fourth and fifth slots in the Bears lineup as Dominik Mueller is 7-5 and No. 90 Bucko is 8-4. At the No. 6 position, Horny, a freshman is 9-3.
The Virginia Cavaliers come into the Friday match sporting a perfect 17-0 spring record.
The Cavaliers will play No. 10 Texas on Sunday in Austin, after their match with the Bears on Friday.
In their last action, Virginia swept a doubleheader Tuesday with wins over Old Dominion, 6-1 and Howard 7-0. Earlier in the year the Cavaliers won the 2009 ITA Indoors Championship to earn their second straight title at the event.
The Virginia squad has five players in the latest ITA National Rankings, Sanam Singh, who is ranked No. 12, 16th-ranked Michael Shabaz, No. 18 Dominic Inglot, No. 54 Houston Barrick, and No. 63 Lee Singer.
"They just have got good players," Knoll said. "We know their guys. We know they are going to play great tennis."
Barrick and Singh are also ranked, as the second best doubles team in the country, while Inglot and Shabaz are 23rd.
"Virginia is going to be really, really good at doubles, so it is going to be a big challenge," Knoll said. "We are looking for four points and if one of them is doubles that is fine, but we are not going to have a party if we win it (doubles point) and we are not going to burn the house down if we lose it."
The Bears are 3-3 all-time versus Virginia, but dropped both of last season's contests to the No. 1 Cavaliers.
After the Bears face Virginia on Friday, they will take on No. 25 Virginia Tech on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Baylor Tennis Center.
Live stats for the two matches can be found on Baylorbears.com.