Sooners look to defend Big 12 title, avenge regular-season loss to Baylor
Astrud Reed, The Oklahoma Daily
The No. 14 OU men’s tennis team wants to repeat what it did last year — win the Big 12 Tennis Championship — when it hosts the tournament Friday in Norman at the Headington Family Tennis Center.
Play begins Friday, but the Sooners (17-6, 4-1 Big 12) secured a bye as the No. 2 seed when they beat in-state rival Oklahoma State last Sunday. As a result, OU will play the winner of No. 3 seed Texas and No. 6 seed Oklahoma State at noon Saturday. The Sooners were victorious against both Texas and OSU in the regular season, beating each of them, 5-2.
The top-seeded Baylor Bears also received a bye after winning the Big 12 regular season and will play the winner of No. 4 seed TCU and No. 5 seed Texas Tech.
With two tournaments left this season — the Big 12 Championships and the NCAA Tournament — OU is hoping to start a successful postseason.
“It’s like starting a new season right now because the regular season’s over; we just have two tournaments,” sophomore Dane Webb said. “I remember last year; we did everything well, we won Big 12 [regular season] and the Big 12 Tournament, then we lost to Tulsa in the round of 32 or something in the NCAA’s, and it still felt like we didn’t have a great season — a great end to it — so it’s like a new season. Hopefully, we can win some of the matches we lost during the regular season.”
One of the matches the Sooners lost during the regular season and are looking to win during the tournament is against Baylor. OU’s only loss in conference play came to Baylor, and if the Sooners were to play the Bears again, it would be in the Big 12 final.
Webb could not help but think ahead to another chance against Baylor.
“I think most of us, we really want to play Baylor again because we lost that match there in Waco,” Webb said. “We’ve got to take care of one match at a time, but I think we’re really looking forward to that one. It’d be nice to play them at home with our people and on our courts and stuff, and we’ll have a good chance at beating them. It’s always good to get revenge on somebody.”
Freshman Axel Alvarez Llamas agrees.
“Yeah, I think we have a big chance against them,” he said. “I don’t think the result that we had there was a real result. You cannot trust that; we had a couple of really close matches, and we can beat them. We can beat them for sure.”
However, coach John Roddick is staying realistic about the rematch against Baylor and remains focused about the competition his squad will face on Saturday.
“I’m glad they want to play [Baylor] again, but having said that, it means we have to get through a team on Saturday,” Roddick said. “We don’t really want to look ahead, but my concern is what we have to do on Saturday because we’re going to play a good team on Saturday, whoever gets through there, somebody who is playing well. So it’s not going to be any guarantee that we do move on.”
Senior Costin Paval likes the team’s chances with a first-round bye and the privilege of hosting the tournament.
“It’s definitely an advantage — home court, your own crowd — you just need to focus on the way you’re playing,” Paval said. “[Hosting the tournament] should help a little, but in the end it’s still tough matches. Even if you have a little bit of an extra edge, it doesn’t count as much.”
OU knows the kind of focus it takes to win the tournament, and it remains focused on its Saturday matchup, but the defending champions would like another chance to repeat on Sunday in Norman.