We’re down to the final two schools in our College Contenders series. Matt Stachowiak breaks down everything you need to know about the Baylor Bears this year.
The Baylor Bears enter the 2018 dual match season led by Head Coach and Director of Men’s Tennis, Matt Knoll. Under his guidance, the Bears have consistently been one of the nation’s top collegiate tennis programs over the last 15 years. During Knoll’s tenure, Baylor has reached the NCAA Championship semifinals five times, with the biggest highlight coming back in 2004 when they won the NCAA Team Championship. After taking a 4-1 loss to Texas in the Rd of 16 last season, the Bears will look to take it a step further in 2018. With the departure of standouts Juan Benitez and Max Tchoutakian, do the men from Waco, Texas have enough depth to make a serious run this year?
The Bears appear to have a nice mixture of returning talent to combine with a couple key freshman additions. There is not a single senior on the roster this season, but experience won’t be an issue. Newcomers Sven Lah and Roy Smith should mesh well with veterans Jimmy Bendeck and Johannes Schretter to give the Bears a solid lineup throughout their top 6. Freshmen Akos Kotorman and Matias Soto will provide depth after coming to Waco with a wealth of international experience.
Johannes Schretter and Bjoern Petersen will man the top two singles positions for Baylor this year. Schretter enters the dual season with an ITA singles ranking of #11 in the country. The man from Austria highlighted his fall play with a run to the championship at the ITA Texas Regional Championship in College Station, Texas.
Petersen begins his 2018 campaign ranked #64 in the country. His fall season included picking up a notable win over Georgia’s Wayne Montgomery in the 2017 Oracle ITA Fall National Championships in Indian Wells, California. Baylor also possesses a top doubles pairing in Schretter and redshirt junior Will Little. The two have teamed up almost all season long and currently hold a ranking of #2 in the country. The Bears should be in good shape with their doubles lineup throughout the year as Lah and Smith are #40 in the rankings.
The Big 12 is arguably the deepest conference in college tennis. With only six teams that participate in the conference, all six are ranked in the ITA Top 25, with Baylor leading the way at #9. The Bears won’t play a conference match until April, but they will be tested when they head to Seattle to compete in the ITA National Team Indoors in a couple weeks. Other notable non-conference matchups include a date with UCF in Orlando, Florida on March 5th and then a battle with Ivy League foe, Columbia, on March 12th back in Waco.
Before heading into conference play, Baylor will participate in the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Tennis Challenge March 16th-18th in Indian Wells, California. This will be another opportunity to play top competition before diving into their rigorous conference schedule.
The Bears will spend April facing stiff Big 12 competition in preparation for the Big 12 Championships, April 26 in Austin, Texas. Coach Knoll’s squad will not have one easy match as they navigate through the conference matches and into postseason battle. Baylor will certainly be battle-tested for the NCAA Team Championships come May.
A PDF of Baylor’s 2018 schedule is available here.
How will the season turn out for the Baylor men? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.