The Lady Bears are ready to protect their house this weekend in the NCAA Championships.
The No. 15 Baylor women’s tennis team finished the regular season undefeated at home and look to keep that streak alive as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M and Louisiana-Monroe come to the Hurd Tennis Center for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.
“We can definitely build off of how we ended the regular season,” senior Blair Shankle said. “We came in here and won tough matches at home against TCU, Kansas and Kansas State. Even though the Big 12 tournament didn’t go our way we can definitely take some positives from that. We can use that to build off of and take all the good things (from the regular season) and use them.”
While the Lady Bears build off of their positive end to the regular season – where they won eight straight before falling in the Big 12 tournament – the No. 6 ranked Baylor men’s tennis team spent the past few weeks working on mental toughness after dropping its last three matches.
“We’re leaving the L’s in the past and focusing on the next game, the next point at a time,” sophomore Juan Benitez said. “That’s what I kept from that experience the last few days. We don’t want to make a big deal out of the Big 12 season or the Big 12 tournament. It didn’t go as we wanted it to.”
Head coach Matt Knoll believes his players have bought into this new approach to mental toughness and will bring about a whole different level for the Bears as they also host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
“They’ve been working hard on it,” Knoll said. “Now we have to see it apply itself to the matches. I think we’re going to play with more confidence and a clearer game plan and clearer understanding of what we’re trying to do in terms of game plan and approach.”
The Bears are slated to open NCAA Tournament play against Lamar at 1 p.m. Friday.
This is Lamar’s second postseason berth in a row as the Cardinals won the 2017 Southland Conference tournament and finished the season 17-7.
“We need first to be focused,” senior Max Tchoutakian said. “We had a couple of good practices the last couple of weeks. It’s about to start. Lamar is pretty good. We need to be focused point by point. We’re hoping to have a good crowd here to support us. We’re just going to try to play our best that day.”
As the men start their postseason journey on Friday, the Lady Bears begin theirs on Saturday with a first round game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The Baylor women’s team has been led all season by Shankle.
The senior — who tied the Baylor record for highest singles ranking at No. 4 earlier this season, is currently No. 5 nationally.
“I wish every player could do it the way Blair’s done it,” coach Joey Scrivano said. “She’s just been so steady and consistent in her work. She hasn’t missed that many practices. She’s had every excuse to miss practice, but she doesn’t use those excuses. She’s been incredibly coachable.”
Thursday afternoon, Shankle was named to the all-Big 12 first team in singles and doubles with sophomore Karina Traxler.
Jessica Hinojosa was named to the league’s all-freshman team.
“She’s been really steady,” Scrivano said. “We were optimistic about what she could do on the tennis court, but she’s exceeded our expectations. … She’s made a big impact on our team. I’m glad she got some recognition because she’s been so consistent from the beginning of the year to here.”
On the men’s side, Benitez and sophomore Will Little were named to the all-Big 12 first team in doubles.
Tchoutakian and Benitez were named to the second team in singles.