The Baylor men's tennis team travels to Starkville, Miss., for first- and second- round action of the NCAA Tennis Championships, hosted by the Mississippi State Bulldogs at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Center, May 11-12.
The Bears, currently ranked No. 25, will take on 31st-ranked Memphis, in first round action on Friday, May 11 at 11 a.m.
Head coach Matt Knoll's Bears are led on the season by freshman Mate Zsiga. The 17th-ranked Zsiga owns the team's top record at 34-7 on the season and 20-4 in dual match play. He is 13-7 vs. nationally ranked opponents which includes wins over fifth-ranked Eric Quigley of Kentucky and Oklahoma's 11th-ranked Costin Paval.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Memphis: The No. 31 Memphis Tigers, making their first appearance in the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships, will take on Baylor in NCAA Championship first-round action. Memphis earned a bid to the 2012 NCAA Men's Tennis Championship after posting a 19-5 record and a runner-up finish in the Conference USA Championships. The Tigers earned seven wins over ranked opponents this season, all on the road, two of which came against SEC members and in-state foes Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Mississippi State: Mississippi State's ninth-ranked men's tennis squad (19-6) received the No. 9 overall seed, the Bulldogs' highest overall seed since being the national No. 4 in 1998. MSU has five players ranked among the nation's top 125. Artem Ilyushin leads the way at No. 13, Louis Cant is No. 50, George Coupland checks in at No. 56, Malte Stropp is No. 74 and James Chaudry ranks No. 88. In doubles, two tandems appear in the top 50 as Coupland and Ilyushin are No. 25 and Cant and Stropp are rated No. 47.
Alcorn State: The Alcorn State Braves, a 49-64 seed nationally, earned a spot into the NCAA Tournament by taking their second-straight (and eighth overall) SWAC Championship with a win over Prairie View A&M. With a 10-8 overall record this season, Alcorn State is making its second-straight appearance in the NCAA Championship and sixth overall.
The Baylor/Memphis winner will advance to the NCAA Championship's second round to face the winner between ninth-seeded and ninth-ranked Mississippi State and Alcorn State on Saturday, May 12 at 2 p.m.
Baylor has never played Memphis or Alcorn State and owns a 5-1 series lead over Mississippi State.
BAYLOR IN NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY
The Bears are 41-13 (.759) overall in NCAA Championships play. This season marks Baylor's 15th straight NCAA appearance under 16th-year head coach Matt Knoll. The Bears claimed the university's first ever team national championship in 2004. Before the title run, the Bears had reached the quarterfinals in both 1999 and 2003, the round of 16 in 2000 and 2002 and had tournament appearances in 1998 and 2001. After the championship, Baylor has continued to experience success clawing its way back to the title match in 2005, before losing to UCLA, 4-3. Following the championship match loss the Bears got back to the semifinals in 2006 and 2007, losing by 4-3 scores each year. For the past four years, the Bears have advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.
LAST YEAR AT NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
The fifth-seeded Bears hosted the first two rounds of the 2011 NCAA Championships in Waco and advanced to the round of 16 with wins over Texas A&M-CC and Texas Tech. Baylor downed UCLA, 4-3, in the round of 16 but saw its season end in the quarterfinals by No. 4 Ohio State, 4-2.
THE ALL-IMPORTANT DOUBLES POINT
In its 28 matches this spring Baylor has won the doubles point 18 times and lost it 10 times. Baylor is 15-3 on the season when winning doubles and 5-0 when sweeping doubles. The Bears' three losses when claiming doubles came vs. No. 9 Stanford (4-2), No. 16 Auburn (4-1) in the National Team Indoor Tournament in Charlottesville, Va., and vs. No. 12 Oklahoma (4-3) in the finals of the Big 12 Championships in College Station. The loss to Oklahoma snapped a Baylor 11-match win streak when winning doubles. On the other hand, the Bears are 2-8 when losing the doubles point. The two victories came at UT-Arlington when, after losing doubles, the Bears swept all six singles matches to claim a 6-1 win and vs. No. 19 Texas Tech in the Big 12 Championship semifinals, Baylor won 4-3.
TEAM STREAKS & TRENDS
All of Baylor's losses this season have come against ranked opponents, seven of which have come vs. Top 15 foes.
In the April 28 ITA team rankings, Baylor is ranked No. 25, moving up three spots from last week's No. 28. Individually, Baylor has two singles players ranked in the ITA top-125 as freshman Mate Zsiga slipped one spot to No. 17 with a 20-4 record in dual-match play, while junior Roberto Maytin comes in at No. 86 with an 13-9 dual match record. The Bears have two doubles team listed in the rankings with Maytin and senior Kike Grangeiroplaying together to be ranked No. 45, after posting a 6-4 record and Zsiga and Maytin are ranked No. 71 with a 9-4 dual match record.
LAST TIME OUT
The Bears dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 12 Oklahoma in the 2012 Big 12 Championship finals at Texas A&M's George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on April 29. In a match that took five hours and 29 minutes to complete, the Bears won the doubles point but could only take two singles matches.
LOOKING FARTHER AHEAD
If Baylor makes it through the opening two rounds of NCAA play, the Bears will travel to the NCAA Championship final site in Athens, Ga. The event is hosted by the University of Georgia at the Dan Magill Tennis Center, May 18-22.