QUICK WORK: Moved Indoors, #13 Bears Finish Off Prairie View, 4-0May 11, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Matt Knoll may have to send a special thank-you note to Jim and Nell Hawkins for helping the 13th-ranked Baylor men's tennis team get a little extra sleep Friday night.
With rainshowers hitting during the middle of singles action, Friday's opening-round match of the NCAA Championships against Prairie View A&M was moved from the outdoor courts at the Hurd Tennis Center to the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center that was just completed in December.
And once they moved inside, the Bears (21-5) made quick work of the outmanned Panthers (9-16), finishing off a 4-0 victory that saw them lose a total of just seven games in singles.
"It was a great start to the tournament," said Knoll, whose team will face second-seeded and 25th-ranked Tulsa (16-7) at 6 p.m. Saturday for the right to move on to the final site and Round of 16 in Urbana, Ill. "We were honestly a bit flat outside. And when we came in here, it raised our energy level. It's louder in here, the courts are closer together; the intimacy of the setting really changed our energy, and we played pretty well in here."
Instead of having to make the 90-minute drive to a four-court facility in Ennis - which is exactly what the team had to do on bad-weather days until this season - the total changeover time was 20 minutes. The Bears played a few indoor matches this season, but this was the first time that a match had started outside and moved to the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center.
"In the past, we would have had to go to Ennis," Knoll said. "It's an hour and a half; and then you have to re-warm up and you're playing on four courts; and you have to drive back. It's tough. And one of the other things, honestly, is you have to drive. You're driving on narrow State Highways in the rain, in the dark. And it's just not very comfortable. So, to get that whole thing off the books is a big deal and will help us a ton tomorrow."
The Bears didn't need any help on Friday in running their all-time NCAA tournament record to 44-14 overall and 19-0 at home.
By the end, it was a race to the finish line to get the fourth point before the match ended. Marko Krickovic and Mate Zsiga were within one and two points, respectively, of closing out their matches when Tony Lupieri got clinching honors with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Prairie View's Ronald Chidzikwe on Court 3.
"What's funny is I was running between the changeovers, and I could see Tony and Mate doing the same thing. And Marko and had match point and couldn't finish," said senior Roberto Maytin, who close out his win over Jonathan Dingle, 6-1, 6-0, at No. 5. "But it was good stuff for us. We needed a match to come back after two weeks off. And now we have to have a good night's sleep and get ready for tomorrow."
Krickovic, who had not been in the singles lineup since April 21, was leading Trent Johnson, 6-0, 5-0, 40-15, at No. 6 when play was suspended. And Zsiga was only a step behind at No. 2, leading Craig Wiltz, 6-0, 5-0, 30-0.
"You've just got to play," Knoll said. "Everybody wants to win their match. It's a bit unusual to be as close to winning as some of the guys were, but we're happy to get through it."
The only real contested match of the night came at No. 3 doubles, where Lupieri and freshman Julian Lenz were leading Johnson and Rasaki Gbadamosi, 7-4, when doubles action was suspended.
Maytin and Patrick Pradella rolled to an 8-1 win over Chidzikew and David Aldaz at No. 2, and Baylor's 63rd-ranked tandem of Zsiga and Diego Galeano clinched the opening point with an 8-1 win over Wiltz and Jackson Varney on Court 1.
After the move indoors, Galeano breezed to a 6-2, 6-0 win over Daniel Vasquez at No. 4, reeling off 24 unanswered points before dropping one point and closing it out with the last four.
In a mad dash to finish, Maytin and Lupieri were able to close out their matches before Zsiga and Krickovic as Baylor posted its ninth shutout of the season.
At No. 1, Lenz was leading Varney, 6-2, 2-0, when the match ended. Lenz dropped two of the first three games before winning the next seven games in a row.
Of his decision to sit the 24th-ranked Pradella in singles, Knoll said, "We just wanted to give some other guys a chance to get out there and compete. And it worked out great. He'll be back out there tomorrow, and we'll be ready to go."
Tulsa defeated Michigan State, 4-1, in the other first-round match and has won the last two against the Bears. In a Feb. 3 matchup earlier this year, the Golden Hurricane pulled out a pair of three-setters in a 5-2 win in Tulsa.
"We know their team. We know what to expect from them," Knoll said. "They have a winning streak against us, and we have to prove in that match. We feel like that was a long time ago, and we've grown a lot. And tomorrow, we get a chance to prove it. It's a great opportunity for us, and I think the guys will be up for it."
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