By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Following Sunday evening's dominating 4-0 win over UT-Arlington that capped off a perfect 4-0 weekend, the 25th-ranked Baylor women's tennis team shouted, "Thank you, Theresa!" in their post-match huddle instead of the traditional "Sic `em, Bears!"
That was the glowing message on the Hurd Tennis Center scoreboard as well, paying homage to Theresa Van Zyl, the team's lone senior.
"Theresa has just been such a consistent competitor and great teammate," said Baylor coach Joey Scrivano, whose team improved to 16-11 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12, beating Iowa State, 6-1, in the earlier match. "I can count on one hand how many practices she's missed, and she's played every match that we've needed her to play. Just being that consistent and durable and positive, her legacy is really good. We just want to finish out this last chapter in a really, really good way."
Van Zyl's likely last home match ended in a win, but not the way she wanted. With the Baylor senior from Namibia on the verge of closing out the first set (5-3, 30-love), UTA's Agustina Serio crumpled to the court clutching her right knee and screaming in pain.
Unable to finish the match, Serio had to default, handing Van Zyl her second win of the day and putting Baylor's second point on the board.
"It's not easy seeing somebody go down, especially when it's the knees," Van Zyl said. "I didn't know if she could play or not. . . . I tried to stay mentally into it, thinking she'll come back to the match and we'll keep on playing. Unfortunately, it didn't happen, but I wish her a speedy recovery. It's not the way I wanted to finish the day, I wanted to play it out and see how it goes."
Instead, Van Zyl spent the rest of her Senior Day cheering on her teammates as the Bears closed out their fifth straight win.
An emotional day started with her teammates decorating the locker room for Van Zyl and playing Shakira's "Waka Waka" (This is Africa), which was the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup that was held in South Africa.
"I just started to cry because I was so happy," she said. "I'm so blessed to have teammates like this who care for me and always have my back. Today, when I got recognized on court with Joey and in front of the crowd and with my teammates, that was an incredible feeling."
Van Zyl also clinched the doubles point, teaming with sophomore Jessica Hinojosa for a 6-2 win over Alumudena Boza and Carla Cerdan Vives at No. 3. Sophomore Angie Shakhraichuk and freshman Dominika Sujova picked up the other doubles win at No. 2, beating the Mavericks' Nanaka Takeuchi and Momoka Horiguchi, 6-1.
Baylor also dominated the singles, winning the first set on all six courts and closing it out with wins at Nos. 2 and 4. Shakhraichuk breezed to a 6-1, 6-2 win over Boza on Court 4, then sophomore Camilla Abbate clinched it with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Anna Wichert at 2.
"Four matches in three days, that's a lot of tennis, especially at this stage of the season," said Scrivano, who used all nine players on the roster this weekend. "We can leave this weekend with a lot of confidence. We know we're fit, we know we can go the distance, and we know we're mentally and physically tough. So, this was a great weekend for us."
The Bears were pushed in Sunday's opening match against Iowa State (9-14, 0-7), dropping the doubles point and losing two first sets in singles. But, they rallied to win it 6-1, with Van Zyl and Hinojosa coming back to win three-setters at Nos. 1 and 3, respectively.
It was Van Zyl's first win since March 2, snapping a five-match losing streak that also included six other matches that didn't finish. She defeated the Cyclones' Maty Cancini, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
After dropping the first set, Van Zyl went to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and said, "OK, you have to come back. This is your match, this is your day. Let's go back and just fight for everything."
"I came back swinging," she said. "I came back in the second and third set. So, I'm happy with the result, especially on Senior Day."
In a clean sweep, the Bears also got singles victories from Abbate, Hinojosa, Sujova and freshmen Kris Sorokolet and Giorgia Testa.
Baylor closes out the regular season with a matchup against seventh-ranked Texas (18-4, 8-0) at 5 p.m. Friday in Austin. The Longhorns clinched at least a share of their first Big 12 title in 11 years with Sunday's 4-0 shutout of West Virginia.
"We feel like our best tennis is still in front of us," said Scrivano, whose team has won 13 of its last 18 matches. "If we could take away the first month of the season, this team is really moving in the right direction and has improved so much. It's a lot of fun."
WACO, Texas -- Baylor women's tennis earned a pair of victories at Hurd Tennis Center on Sunday to complete a 4-0 weekend. The 25th-ranked Bears bested Iowa State, 6-1, and finished the doubleheader with a sweep, 4-0, of UT-Arlington to record their fifth-straight win.
No. 25 Baylor 6, Iowa State 1
After dropping the doubles point to the Cyclones, Baylor went to work in singles action to record a strong team victory.
Freshman Kristina Sorokolet extended the lead for the Bears, 3-1, with another two-set victory on court four, 6-4, 6-0, against Margarita Timakova. Sophomore Dominika Sujova clinched the team result with another two-set victory on court five, 7-5, 6-1, against Annabella Bonadonna.
No. 25 Baylor 4, UT-Arlington 0
The Bears continued their success in the second match of the day to secure the sweep on Theresa Van Zyl's Senior Night.
Sophomore Angelina Shakhraichuk and freshman Dominika Sujova earned a 6-1 win on court two to open doubles play, and Van Zyl and sophomore Jessica Hinojosa keyed the point with a 6-2 victory on court three.
In singles action, Baylor went up 2-0 after an injury ended Van Zyl's match early, 5-3, on court one.
Shakhraichuk earned the third point for the Bears with a two-set win over Almudena Boza, 6-1, 6-2, on court four. Fellow sophomore Camilla Abbate clinched the match for Baylor with a win in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1, on court two.
"It was a really good weekend. We had a lot of competitive matches and it gave our team an opportunity to play a lot of tennis and find a rhythm. We're playing really well right now." -- Head coach Joey Scrivano
"Theresa has been such a consistent competitor and great teammate. She's always been available. Any time her number is called, she's there to play. I can count on one hand how many practices she's missed, and she's played every match we've needed her to play. Just being that consistent, that durable and that positive; her legacy is really good. We just want her to finish out this last chapter in a really good way, and make sure that whatever her goals are for the end of the season, we achieve them." -- Head coach Joey Scrivano
Baylor wraps up the regular season at Texas on Friday, April 20. First serve is set for 5 p.m. (CT) in Austin, Texas.
For an inside look at the Baylor women's tennis program, follow the team's social media accounts (@BaylorWTennis on Twitter and Instagram, /BaylorWTennis on Facebook).