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Tennis team fights hard luck, sports record start

March 26, 1997

By Jeff Huett

Assistant City Editor/ Sports

After starting off the season with an 8­7 record, the University men's tennis team is off to its best start in the program's history.

But unless you look closely, the Bears' record may be deceiving.

Of the Bears' seven losses, four of them were lost by a 4­3 score. Each one of these matches has come down to the last set and two of them have come down to a tie-breaker situation in the final set.

'We've been an unlucky team this year,' Johann Jooste, the first seed player and a Pretoria, South Africa, freshman said. 'But we're working hard and we're going to get better.'

Head coach Matt Knoll is in his first year at the University after serving for two years as assistant tennis coach at the University of Kansas. While at Kansas, Knoll racked up back-to-back Big Eight Championships.

'Coaching here at Baylor is a great challenge,' Knoll said. 'We have the chance to build a program from the ground up and instill our philosophy in order to set a good foundation for great years ahead.'

On March 12, the Bears defeated No. 39 Texas Tech University, 5­2, to earn its first-ever win over a ranked opponent. The win was also the University's first conference win after a four-year drought.

'We have already exceeded expectations, especially outside of our program,' Knoll said. 'Baylor has the foundation to be a really good tennis program. It has the academics, the conference, the schedule, and the support of the faculty.'

The University's squad is truly a global team.

The United State is represented by Brandon Birmingham, a Carillon sophomore. Other countries represented are Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

'We have a great group of guys here that really care about just getting better,' Jooste said. 'Our first goal is not to win. It's to play the best we can every time we go out and improve along the way.'

According to Knoll, if the Bears play their best match of the season in their last match of the season, then his goals for this year will be realized.

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