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BACK TO THE QUARTERS: Bears Roll Over #12 Illini, 4-0, at NCAA Tourney

May 17, 2014

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

ATHENS, Ga. - In one of its more dominant performances, the fifth-seeded Baylor men's tennis team posted its second shutout of the NCAA tournament and 15th of the season, dispatching 12th-seeded Illinois, 4-0, on Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

With the win, the Bears (26-5) advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in three years and will face fourth-seeded Virginia (26-2) at 11 a.m. CDT Sunday.

"At this stage of the year, the less you play the better. We're not out here trying to get a lot of exercise," said Baylor head coach Matt Knoll, whose team has won seven in a row and 18 of its last 19 matches.

"We just wanted to execute as best as we could, and we did. You saw how well-coached and how ferocious Illinois competes, the way their guys were digging in on every point and giving it everything they have. I was a little worried when we won all those first sets, thinking the match was over. And the match wasn't close to over. We had to do a good job finishing, and we were able to do that."

Nursing a back injury that flared up early in the first set, Michel Dornbusch clinched it with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Blake Bazarnik at No. 4, as the Bears took less than three hours to win the Round of 16 match on the McWhorter Courts.

"I looked down there, and he was rolling around on his back like a turtle," Knoll said. "I was a little worried that something serious was going on, but he jumped off the ground and got it done and found a way to win the match."

With Bazarnik also struggling to serve because of stiffness in his back or shoulder, Dornbusch called it a "weird match."

"I'm not sure what I did, but it was 1-all in the first and I hurt my back so bad," said Dornbusch, who has won nine of his last 10 to improve to 14-6 overall. "But (the trainer) came, and it got better and better the longer I played. I think I the end, I was OK. It was a weird match, but I did it somehow."

At that point, there was little or no pressure on Dornbusch.

After winning the doubles point, Baylor took five of the six first sets in singles and was completely in control. Mate Zsiga was serving for it as well, leading the Illini's Ross Guignon, 6-2, 5-2, at No. 5.

Tony Lupieri, the only one of the Baylor players to drop a set, had rallied to win back-to-back games on Court 6 and was on the verge of getting it back to 5-4 in the second when the match ended.

"I thought it was a great day for us," Knoll said. "I was proud of Tony. I didn't see any of that match, but he was in a tough spot and stayed out there; and that helped a lot. Pat (Pradella) won a tight tiebreaker in the first, which was big for our momentum. Diego (Galeano) was down a break early and did a great job coming back. And, obviously, Julian (Lenz) really led us, getting off first."

In a matchup of top-10 players on Court 1, the third-ranked Lenz cruised to an easy 6-2, 6-2 win over eighth-ranked Jared Hiltzik to give the Bears a 2-0 lead.

"I was excited to step on the court, and I came out and wanted to win the match," said Lenz, who improved to a team-best 35-6 overall and 24-3 in dual matches. "That was the big difference. I didn't feel like he came out and wanted to win. He just wanted to play."

Lenz got an early break in the first set and was never really threatened by Hiltzik, getting his 16th win this season against a ranked opponent.

"To be honest, I didn't really think about any breaks," Lenz said. "I just wanted to do the things that I had talked about with coach - putting in a lot of returns and rolling the ball into his forehand corner with a lot of pace, a lot of spin, and try to make him feel uncomfortable."

No one would have predicted that the 31st-ranked Galeano would get the next point on the board for the Bears when he lost the first three games against No. 63 Tim Kopinski at No. 3. But Galeano won five games in a row, six of the next seven and closed it out, 6-4, 6-3.

"What's great is we knew he was still in there," Knoll said. "Nobody panicked, nobody was upset; everybody felt like he would find a way to get deep into the match. And once he did, he was completely in control."

In the remaining matches, the 14th-ranked Pradella won a first-set tiebreaker against 18th-ranked Farris Gosea at No. 2, but was down a break and trailing 3-4 in the second; and Lupieri was down, 7-5, 5-3, to Julian Childers at No. 6.

Baylor got the first point on the board with doubles victories at Nos. 2 and 3. Lenz and Dornbusch cruised to an 8-3 win over Bazarnik and Gosea at No. 3, and Galeano and Lupieri clinched it with an 8-6 victory over Hiltzik and Alex Jesse at No. 2.

But Knoll said the 21st-ranked tandem of Pradella and Zsiga "really lifted us," leading the fifth-ranked duo of Kopinski and Guignon, 6-5, on Court 1.

"Our team at 1 has matured a lot," Knoll said. "There was a time not long ago that we were talking about them not even being a 1 team. And today, they're playing the No. 5 team in the country, and they're toe-to-toe with them and looking good. That really lifted us, I think. If you had to point to one thing, our 1 team playing like a 1 team has really given us a chance to be pretty good in (the doubles) point."

This is Baylor's 10th NCAA quarterfinal appearance and first since 2011. Virginia has beaten the Bears in the last six meetings, including a 6-1 decision on March 1 on the indoor courts at the Boar's Head Club in Charlottesville, Va.

Seeded fourth, Virginia advanced with a 4-1 win over 13th-seeded Notre Dame.

"I think everyone is pumped up and excited to show (Virginia) that we're actually a really good team and we can beat them," said Lenz, who got the only point in the previous match with a 6-2, 6-2 win over fourth-ranked Mitch Frank.

Here is a link to the complete results from Friday's Baylor-Illinois men's tennis match.

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