Cards Fall to Bears at NCAA Championships
WACO, Texas – The two-time defending Southland Conference Champion Lamar University Cardinals’ season came to an end in the opening round of the NCAA Championships Friday afternoon. The No. 7 Baylor Bears recorded a 4-0 victory over the Cardinals at the Hurd Tennis Center in Waco.
The Bears advance to the second round of the tournament to face Ivy League champion, Cornell, who defeated Rice, 4-0, in the morning match.
The Cardinals setback marks the second consecutive season Big Red has advanced to the NCAA Championships.
“We knew going in that we needed to win the doubles point,” said LU head coach Scott Shankles. “It is very hard to beat a top-10 team needing to win four singles matches. We had the right game plan coming in, we know what they like to do and we know who we are. We had one break at 5-5 on line three that changed the momentum a little late in the match. We played them tough and I’m very proud of that.”
The Bears took the opening lead winning the doubles point, but it was a close match on every court. Baylor took the first match on court two, but the Cardinals were poised to tie things up at line three. The team of senior Juuso Laitinen and junior Logan Powell held an early lead over the Bears’ Johannes Schretter and Constantin Frantzen. Baylor rallied to take a 6-5 lead needing only one more game to take the point. The Bears came away with the score which was a turning point as Big Red’s Jeandre Hoogenboezem and Nikita Lis were tied with Baylor’s nationally ranked pair of Juan Benitez and Will Little, 5-5, on court one when the match was halted.
Little scored the Bears’ second point of the match on court No. 5 where he defeated junior Benny Schweizer in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Baylor added to its lead less than a minute later when Schretter – the nation’s 63rd-ranked player – defeated Hoogenboezem, 6-1, 6-3, on court No. 3.
With their back against the wall, the Cardinals responded to the deficit by fighting back. Sophomore Sebastian Santibanez won his opening set over BU’s Bjoern Petersen in a tiebreak, 7-6. After dropping his opening set, senior Michael Feucht evened things up on court No. 1 by taking the second set over the nation’s 15th-ranked player, Juan Benitez. He defeated Benitez, 6-3, to force a third set.
Those two matches would be halted minutes later when Baylor picked up the fourth and final point on court No. 6. The Bears’ Constantin Frantzen defeated Laitinen, 6-3, 6-3.
“These seniors mean the world to me and to this program,” said Shankles. “Prior to their arrival we were really trying to build this program up, but when they got here I knew they were going to do some special things. They have worked hard on the court, in the classroom and in the community. I’m very proud of what these guys have accomplished.
“Before their arrival we were 20-40, but we’ve won more than 60 matches since they started. That is a big turnaround for just four players. They’ve all worked hard on the tennis courts, in the classroom and in the community,” added Shankles.
The Cardinals close the season with a 17-8 (.680) overall record after advancing to their second consecutive NCAA Championship tournament.