Men's Tennis tops Baylor to capture Big 12 Conference Championship
WACO, Texas -- Second-seeded Texas scored its first victory over Baylor since 2001 on Sunday evening to capture its first Big 12 Championship since 1999, as the Longhorns dealt the top-seeded Bears a 4-1 defeat at the Baylor Tennis Center. Texas, who shared the Big 12 regular-season title with Baylor, wins its third Big 12 tournament title and the first for sixth-year head coach Michael Center. Senior Roger Gubser (Laredo, Texas) was named the championship's Most Outstanding Performer after going unbeaten in singles and doubles play throughout the tournament.
"We've talked about competing everyday and taking things one day at a time, and that's what these guys did this weekend," Center said." We knew we had an opportunity to play for the championship, and the guys put their hearts out there and got it done."
The match kicked off with a spirited doubles session won by the Longhorns. Gubser and junior Hubert Chodkiewicz (Corpus Christi, Texas) took an early lead on Baylor's Matija Zgaga and Matt Brown at the second position, but the Bears pulled even at three games apiece. However, Texas held serve and broke Baylor the rest of the way on its way to an 8-3 victory.
As was the case at the first position, UT sophomores Travis Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan.) and Luis Diaz Barriga (Cordoba, Mexico) found themselves even at three games apiece in their No. 3 doubles match against Will Ward and David Galic, but they slowly pulled away on their way to a win. Texas jumped out to a 7-4 lead, and after the Bears pulled within 7-6, the Longhorns tallied the clinching point on a Helgeson serve to take a 1-0 lead. The contest at first doubles matching Texas' Callum Beale (Adelaide, Australia) and Miguel Reyes Varela (Cuernavaca, Mexico) against Baylor's Lars Poerschke and Michal Kokta progressed to a tiebreaker, where Baylor led 3-2 before the match was stopped.
At sixth singles, UT freshman Michael Venus (Orlando, Fla.) won his first set, 6-1, over BU's Vladimir Portnov and battled in the second set. Venus trailed 4-2 but took the final four games to win the set, 6-4, and give Texas a 2-0 lead.At second singles, Gubser scored a timely service break late in the first set against BU's Matija Zgaga to take the first set, 6-4. Zgaga saved three match points in the second set and forced the set to a tiebreaker. Gubser failed to convert two match points, but, leading 6-5, he held off Zgaga on the final point to win the match and push the Longhorns' cushion to 3-0.
After dropping his first set at third singles, UT's Beale rallied for a 6-4 second-set win to push his match with Baylor's Kokta to a third set.Kokta took control midway through the set to win the match and slice the Texas lead to 3-1.
At fourth singles, sophomore Milan Mihailovic (Nis, Serbia) took the first set against the Bears' Ward, only to see Ward rally to win the second set. Mihailovic's service break of Ward in the third set's seventh game was the final lift he needed, as he went on to take the final two games to win the match and the Big 12 title for the Longhorns.
"We had bitter feelings inside after we lost here earlier this month," said Gubser, who helped Texas to its first victory over the Bears during his five seasons as a Longhorn."It is an unbelievable feeling to finally beat Baylor. We're excited, but we still have a lot left to play for this season."
Texas' win breaks Baylor's 15-match home winning streak against Big 12 Conference opponents, which dated back to Texas' last win over the Bears - a 4-1 Big 12 semifinal victory - five seasons ago in Waco.
"Tonight was a culmination of the hard work put in by our team and our staff," Center added."This isn't the final step, though. We want something more than this."
Texas collects the Big 12 Conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.The 64-team tournament field and pairings will be announced Wednesday, May 3 on ESPNEWS beginning at 7:30 p.m. CDT.
Big 12 Men's Tennis Championship - Finals
Singles - Order of Finish: 6, 2, 3, 4