A new fall season for South Florida’s men’s tennis starts Sept. 27 in Gainesville at the 2002 Gator Invitational, but a new era might be starting, as well.
The additions of several highly regarded players has head coach Don Barr looking forward to the upcoming season and even saying on paper the team can take it to a new level.
“I think we will be deeper than we’ve ever been,” Barr said. “I have some excellent top-notch players.”
Those players include freshman Juan Barragan, a national champion from Equador, freshman Federico Barton, the No. 3-ranked player in Mexico and junior Renato Silveira, the National Junior College champion.
Sophomore Andy Maroldt and junior Sebastian Niedermayer of Germany round out the five newcomers.
“We’re sitting well,” junior Paco Antelo said. “It’s a little bit harder because we have five new players, but these players have good experiences. We’re going to have a great season. I’m expecting to have a better season than last year.”
Last year, USF finished the season with an 18-5 record and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
The Bulls do not feel handicapped at all with 55 percent of the team being newcomers.
“They are really good. They came with so much incentive and willingness to practice,” Antelo said. “We’re hungry to play, and we’re ready.”
The team is collectively focused on winning conference, as well as individually having strong goals.
“First, I expect to be part of the group of the USF family and team,” Barragan said. “My goals are to improve my tennis and go up with my level to try to win my singles tournaments.”
If his resume is any indication, Barragan shouldn’t have many problems winning tournaments and adjusting to Division I.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Barragan said. “For me, I have played pro and everything so I know anything can be done and any player can be beat.”
Ranked No. 50 in the world in juniors, he has competed in futures and challengers level competitions, as well as representing Equador on the Davis Cup team and playing in the juniors level of the U.S. Open.
“The players that we’ve been bringing in have been out doing the futures and challengers which everyone tries to do and tries to do well to see if they are ready to go out on the ‘big tour,'” Barr said.
Along with playing a high level of tennis, another forte of the team has been getting good grades.
The last two seasons the tennis team has been ranked the top team academically in the school.
This year’s newcomers wish to keep that standard going.
“I expect to do well in the classes and to win the conference championships or be in a good position to,” Barragan said. “I want to contribute to having one of the best team GPAs in all of the sports.”
With the team having such promising newcomers, all that stands in the way of success is grades and chemistry.
“The five new guys are fitting in the team so well I don’t think its going to take us long to have good results,” Antelo said.