published Friday, April 13th, 2012

Mixon aids Baylor net strength

Mary Walker Mixon has learned a lot in her first few months as a Baylor student and tennis player. Apart from what she's learned in the classroom, she's experiencing how hard it is to train at an elite school, as well as -- most importantly -- how to do The Wop.

Mixon, a junior transfer from St. Pius X in Atlanta, has had to hit the ground running for the Lady Red Raiders, who are 6-0 heading into the Rotary Invitational Tournament today.

The A Division will be held at Baylor, while the B Division girls' competition will be at GPS and boys' B play will be at McCallie. Matches start at 8:30 this morning, with championships set to start at the same time Saturday morning.

Mixon became familiar with her Baylor teammates at a Keith Urban concert last summer.

"I feel like I've adjusted pretty well," she said. "I came up and played at the TVOC tournament, and the girls have been very sweet and welcoming. It's tough because Baylor is a more elite tennis school than St. Pius. We're training now for some important matches."

Mixon got her first taste of the Baylor-GPS tennis rivalry in the finals of the Decoturf National Championships in Louisville, Ky. Baylor won that match and won again when the two teams met this week.

"It's such an intense atmosphere, one I've never been in before," Mixon said. "At St. Pius, our biggest rivals were Marist and Woodward Academy, but they weren't anything like this. It's huge here: You could tell how much winning that match means."

Now her test is the prestigious Rotary tournament, which possibly has the toughest field of any tournament around -- postseason tournaments included. Six of the 16 teams that played in the "A" Division last season finished as state champions in their respective states and classifications, and four others were state runners-up. Another three were state semifinalists.

"It's a tough tournament and a completely different format, but it's one that we like," Baylor coach Dustin Kane said. "It's a team tournament, but it's all individual brackets and your job is to get as many points as you can for your team.

"In a team tournament you may lose your match, but your team still can win and go further. The Rotary is more grueling than that: You're always there and you can't just go back to a hotel, because you don't really know when your next match is. You can get an individual as well as a team accomplishment at the same time.

"Mary Walker is a great addition as a well-rounded tennis player with few weaknesses. She's bought into all the hard work and training that goes along with playing here. It can be demanding, but in the end she'll be a better player and we're glad to have her."

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