WACO, Texas - The Baylor men's tennis team travels to Urbana, Ill., for Round of 16 action in the NCAA Tennis Championships, hosted by the University of Illinois at the Atkins Tennis Center, May 16-21.
The Bears, currently ranked No. 13, will take on fourth-ranked and fourth-seeded USC (25-4), in third round action on Thursday, May 16 at 4 p.m. (CDT).
BU is making its 12th consecutive and 14th overall appearance at the final team site. Baylor, 22-5 on the season, earned wins over Prairie View A&M (4-0) and No. 25 Tulsa (4-2), in the first and second rounds of NCAA play for the right to face the Trojans.
Head coach Matt Knoll's Bears are led by two newcomers, No. 24 Patrick Pradella and No. 55 Julian Lenz, at the top of the lineup. Pradella, the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year, is 20-5 on the season, while Lenz the conference's Freshman of the Year honoree posted a 27-9 mark. Baylor has also found success in the doubles point, winning the opening point 21 times in 27 matches. The bottom of the singles lineup is bolstered by another newcomer, Tony Lupieri, who currently owns an 11-match win streak and is 18-3 in dual-match play.
NCAA QUICK HITS
BAYLOR IN NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY: Baylor has amassed an impressive 45-14 (.763) all-time NCAA Championship record. The Bears have been selected to compete in post season play for 16 straight seasons including this year, while winning at least two matches in the event for 12 consecutive seasons.
LOOKING FOR THE UPSET: In 16 years of NCAA Championship play, Baylor has been the underdog according to the ITA rankings only 12 times. BU is 3-9 in those matches. In third round matches, BU has only been an underdog four times, going 2-2 in those contests. The Bears' last upset in NCAA play came in 2008 as they beat eighth-ranked Tennessee, 4-1, in the Round of 16.
AT THE NCAA FINAL SITE: In 13 trips to the NCAA final site, BU has compiled a 16-12 mark, including a 10-3 record in Round of 16 contests. Baylor last advanced past the third round in 2011 and has down so 10 times overall. Baylor enjoyed a seven-match win streak at the NCAA final site in 2004 and 2005 en route to winning the 2004 NCAA title and finishing as the runner-up in the following season.
TEAM STREAKS & TRENDS: The Bears have won 12 of their last 13 matches. All five of Baylor's losses came against top-25 teams this season with three losses against top-five opponents including then top-ranked Virginia and second-ranked UCLA.
SINGLES STREAKS & TRENDS: Sophomore Tony Lupieri currently holds the longest active win streak for the Bears after winning his last 11 matches. Lupieri has played predominantly in the No. 4 position for the Bears where he has recorded a 9-1 season record. Sophomore Diego Galeano has won his last five matches and is 14-0 this season when playing at the No. 5 singles position.
THE ALL-IMPORTANT DOUBLES POINT: The Bears have again been dominant in winning doubles points. BU only lost six doubles points during the year and recorded a 3-3 record when doing so. The Bears won 21 doubles points this season, including 15 sweeps of doubles matches. During conference play, the Bears did not lose a doubles point, and only lost three doubles matches.
LAST TIME OUT: Despite losing the doubles point for only the sixth-time all season, Baylor downed 25th-ranked Tulsa, 4-2, on Saturday in Waco to secure its 12th-consecutive Round of 16 appearance. BU got wins at singles positions 2, 4, 5 and 6 to take the contest.
LOOKING AHEAD: With a victory over USC, the Bears will have reached the quarterfinals of NCAA Championship play for the 11th time. BU would face the winner of Texas A&M-Ohio State in the fourth round on Saturday.
RANKED BEARS: Baylor has five singles competitors ranked with Patrick Pradella, Julian Lenz, Marko Krickovic, Mate Zsiga and Tony Lupieri, ranked 24, 55, 68, 84 and 109, respectively. Zsiga pairs with sophomore Diego Galeano to be ranked No. 63 in the doubles listings.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
SCOUTING USC: The Trojans have won the NCAA Championship for the past four seasons and have a 25-4 record this season. The only losses for USC came against then-ranked No. 1 Virginia and current No. 1 UCLA three times. The Trojans have six ranked singles players led by No. 7 Emilio Gomez. USC has made the quarterfinals for six consecutive seasons.
SERIES HISTORY: The overall series between the two teams is tied at four with the Trojans taking the last two matches. The last match was a 4-3 victory by USC on March 21, 2009 in Waco. BU and USC have met twice in NCAA play with the Trojans earning a 4-2 victory over Baylor in round of 16 in 2002 and BU blanking USC 4-0 in the semifinal round in 2004.
QUOTES - Head Coach Matt Knoll
On advancing to the final site:
"It is something we are proud of. Making it 12 years in a row is something we feel good about. We want to be good at the end and that is something we talk about all the time. That is something our guys have really taken to heart."
On how his team played last weekend:
"I thought there were some great individual performances. I was a bit disappointed we didn't get the doubles point against Tulsa. However, I thought we bounced back well from that. Being resilient is one of the big things for us. There were some opportunities to give in, but I thought our guys were tough."
On his team:
"I think our guys are excited. We think we are playing our best tennis. We have to be ready to step up and see what we can do."
"The reason we play the schedule we do is we want to be comfortable playing this level of competition. I can't think of a better way to open up then by playing the four-time defending champions. They have a great nucleus of players that have all won something. They will play with a lot of pride and it will be a heck of a challenge for us."
On what it will take to beat USC:
"It is going to take a total team effort. It is going to take incredible focus and discipline and a high-energy level from beginning to end. We are going to have to win some of the moments."
To stay up to date with the team all season follow @BaylorMTennis on Twitter.