Following a season-ending loss to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament finals, Texas Tech men’s tennis coach Brett Masi wanted to see his squad come out on fire against New Mexico State in its first round NCAA Tournament match.
Masi, who’s in his first season at the helm, got that and more Saturday as the No. 8 Red Raiders defeated the Aggies 4-0 in commanding fashion at the McLeod Tennis Center.
With the win, Texas Tech (28-5) advanced to the second round and will play — weather permitting — No. 30 SMU (21-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Red Raiders, who have earned victories in all three of their NCAA Tournament home matches, are hosting the first and second round of the postseason for the first time since 2005.
“Just playing aggressively and playing the tennis we know we can play,” Masi said of what he told his players before Saturday’s contest. “Sometimes you can always play to what the opponent is doing. And I didn’t think we did that. I think we forced the issue and we took matters into our own hands. The guys played at a good level.”
The aggressive play started from the onset as the Red Raiders earned victories at the No. 1 and 2 spots in doubles. Alex Sendegeya and Bjorn Thomson; and Connor Curry and Felipe Soares, took home 6-2 and 6-1 wins, respectively.
“We’ve done a lot of work on our doubles the past couple of weeks while we’ve had some time off,” said Thomson, a 5-foot-9 freshman from the United Kingdom. “So to come out and get those two wins. … was really nice.”
With a 1-0 advantage heading into singles, the Red Raiders took care of business.
Soares, Thomson and Jolan Cailleau all earned wins to punctuate what was a dominant start to Texas Tech’s journey in the NCAA Tournament.
“The one thing about Bjorn, is you always know you’re going to get your best from him,” Masi said of his first-year starter after a 6-0, 6-2 victory over NMSU’s Enrique Asmar. “He’s always going to come out ready to go. Against guys, you know, where he knows he has the upper hand, he takes care of business pretty quickly.”
Cailleau, who defeated NMSU’s Stijn de Haan, 6-3, 6-2, felt like his confidence soared thanks to Texas Tech earning the doubles point.
“It helps a lot, especially when you are up 1-0 (going into singles play),” said Cailleau, a junior. “It brings confidence. We did it today, but we’re going to have to stay focused for (Sunday). There’s going to be a much better team. So, we’re going to have to stay focused and bring it.”
Indeed, the Red Raiders have a tall task ahead when they host the Mustangs on Sunday.
SMU, which is coming off a 5-0 first-round victory over Washington, enjoyed a solid year before sputtering to the end of the regular season slate.
From February 27 through April 2, the Mustangs went 14-1, which included one loss bookended by winning streaks of eight and six.
“They’re a good team. They’ve beaten Oklahoma State, who’s been Top 15 in the country,” Masi said. “So we’ve got our work cut out for us. Our guys know that, and they’ll be ready to go.”
Follow Carlos on Twitter: