WACO, Texas -- The host Baylor Bears will have the honor of playing the defending NCAA Division I men's tennis champion Southern California Trojans on Saturday in the quarterfinals at the Hurd Tennis Center.
Second-seeded Baylor (24-5) defeated South Florida 4-1 in Thursday's round of 16. USC (25-4), seeded seventh, dispatched No. 10 Duke to earn a slot in the final eight. Last year, the Trojans beat Oklahoma 4-2 to capture their 21st NCAA team title.
The Bears won the top prize in 2004, and were runners-up in 2005. Baylor also advanced to the semifinals in 2006 and 2007. Baylor head coach Matt Knoll has been the key to the success of the Baylor program. He is well aware of the tradition of the winning ways of the Trojans."We see them a lot," said Kroll of Saturday's opponent. "We know their guys are super good, and we have a ton of respect for them. They have had more of their share, and we are trying to get more of our share. Our doubles have been a strength over the course of a year. Some of those guys down the line have started to play their best tennis."
The clincher for the Bears was at No. 1 singles, as Julian Lenz -- ranked No. 2 in the nation -- beat South Florida's Roberto Cid -- ranked No. 21 -- by a straight-set score of 6-3, 7-5.
Meanwhile, 100 miles north of Waco, on the SMU campus in Dallas, sixth-seeded Texas A&M had its hands full with No. 11 Ohio State. The Aggies edged the Buckeyes 4-3 at SMU's indoor facility, the Brookshire Family Pavilion. The match was moved from Baylor because the schedule was jammed up by lightning and rain earlier in the day.
Arthur Rinderknech gave the Aggies the victory at No. 3 singles, beating Herkko Pollanen 6-2, 6-7, 6-4. A&M (24-4) will take on third-seeded Virginia in the quarters. The Cavaliers (26-3) shut out Columbia 4-0 earlier in the day.
Texas A&M is actually led by a former Texas Longhorn, Steve Denton, in his ninth season at the Aggies helm. He earned All-America honors at Texas and won the U.S. Open doubles title as a pro. Denton was ranked as high as No. 11 in the world in singles and No. 2 in doubles.
"It’s great for our program to be in the Elite Eight and have this opportunity," Denton said. "We haven’t done that since I’ve been here. I’m really happy for these guys and how hard they’ve fought.
"It was difficult for both teams. Obviously, we were prepared. We were preparing to play [in Waco]. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But they put it aside. It was something they had no control over and they came here and battled. Four and a half hours later, it paid off.”
In other matches, top seed Oklahoma beat No. 16 UCLA 4-3 and will face No. 8 Georgia in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs took out Texas 4-1 in the round of 16. Fifth-seeded TCU blanked No. 12 Wake Forest 4-0, and is paired against No. 13 North Carolina. The Tar Heels knocked out fourth-seeded Illinois by the tight score of 4-3.