After 14 straight appearances in the round of 16, the Baylor men’s tennis team didn’t enjoy the feeling of being left out of the party last season.
With Saturday’s second-round 4-0 win over Cornell, the No. 7 Bears are headed back to the NCAA championships in Athens, Ga.
The win over No. 26 Cornell at the Hurd Tennis Center was a big moment for the Baylor veterans who lost to Georgia in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament. That loss was also in Athens, but it kept the Bears (23-7) from advancing to the NCAA championships.
“I’m super excited going to Georgia again,” said Baylor junior Max Tchoutakian. “I love playing there, I love the courts. And I think we deserve it, to be in the Sweet 16. I’m glad that this year is completely different and we’re actually pretty good and we can hope to do really well in the tournament.”
The No. 16 Baylor women’s tennis team cruised to a 4-0 win its first-round NCAA tournament match against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday. The Bears will face former Big 12 rival Texas A&M at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Hurd Tennis Center.
The Baylor men will face Texas in the round of 16 on Thursday at 8 a.m. in Athens. Baylor beat the Longhorns, 4-1, on April 12 in Austin.
“It’s going to be a great battle,” Tchoutakian said. “It’s always the biggest rivalry between Baylor and Texas. We need to rest well and go there and just be pumped and try to win again like we did a month ago.”
In the win over Cornell (22-4), Baylor took the doubles point as No. 2 seed Jimmy Bendeck and Johannes Schretter knocked off Cornell’s Lev Kazakov and David Volfson, 6-1; and No. 3 seed Tchoutakian and Bjoern Petersen beat Juan Jose Rosas and Bernado Cesares Rosa, 6-3.
Petersen continued to make a comeback from a three-month injury beginning with Baylor’s 4-0 opening NCAA tournament win over Lamar on Friday. He also performed well in his singles match against Cornell’s Chris Vrabel.
“What a great job by him to battle like he did,” said Baylor coach Matt Knoll. “He fought off some set points. I was a little worried he’d be a little over-juiced after playing a tough first set. But he did a really nice job of maintaining his composure and getting back to work. The difference from yesterday to today was significant, and I think we’ll see him continue to get better and better as the tournament goes along.”
It was also a memorable day for Tchoutakian who graduated Saturday morning before helping Baylor advance to the round of 16 in the evening.
“I can’t imagine how special it must be for a guy to graduate and play in the second round of the NCAAs and have your parents here for the first time,” Knoll said. “What a special opportunity for him. You can’t replace guys like that to see how he’s developed and who he is now and what he brings to the table. There’s no question he’s going to be a huge success in whatever he chooses to do.”
Tchoutakian’s parents came all the way from Marseille, France, to see him graduate at the Ferrell Center before going across the parking lot to watch him play tennis at the Hurd Tennis Center.
“I was supposed to (graduate) at 2:30 today, but since we play, I moved mine to 9,” Tchoutakian said. “I was glad that I was able to go there. That was such an amazing experience for me, because we don’t have that in France. And my parents are here, so it’s even better.”
In singles action, Baylor No. 1 seed Juan Benitez knocked off Volfson, 6-1, 6-2; No. 5 seed Will Little beat Pietro Rimondini, 6-3, 6-3; and Baylor No. 6 seed Bendeck beat Cesares Rosa, 6-4, 6-3, to clinch the win.
In the women’s tournament, Baylor (22-6) dominated both doubles and singles against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (20-3) to advance to the second round against Texas A&M. The Aggies took a 4-2 decision over Louisiana-Monroe in the first round.
The Bears are looking forward to facing their old Big 12 rival.
“It’s a rivalry match and you put the NCAA tournament on top of it, that’s what you want,” said Baylor coach Joey Scrivano. “You want matches where you feel like you’re going in the deep end, and whenever we play Texas A&M that’s the type of match it is. They’ve had a tremendous amount of success against us the last few years and they’re just a great team. We’ve got to be ready to play and do what we do.”
Baylor won the doubles point against A&M-Corpus Christi as No. 1 seed Blair Shankle and Karina Traxler beat Jelena Dzinic and Judit Vives, 6-2; and No. 2 seed Angie Shakhraichuk and Jessica Hinojosa beat Hortense Boscher and Louise Trigona, 6-1.
“Corpus plays a very unique style of doubles and forces you to get out of your comfort zone a little bit, and our team handled that really well,” Scrivano said. “We tried to prepare this week to get used to them playing a lot of its two-back formation, and our team did a good job with that.”
In singles, Baylor No.3 seed Rhiann Newborn knocked off Trigona, 6-1, 6-3; No. 5 seed Shakhraichuk beat Maria Maldonado, 6-0, 6-1; and No. 6 Hinojosa knocked off Marina Vicens Miquel, 6-1, 6-0.
Both Hinojosa and Shakhraichuk are freshmen who have played well all season.
“We have great depth on this team and our freshmen are a big part of that,” Scrivano said. “They’ve definitely helped our lineup become stronger all the way from one through six. That’s what it takes to have a team that goes deep in the tournament.”