Bulls out of their element

Bulls are not indoor animals, and Monday’s men’s tennis match with Mississippi proved that.

The No. 8 Rebels handed the 21st-ranked Bulls a 7-0 setback, matching the same result Ole Miss handed USF a year ago in Oxford.

“We got beat pretty soundly — 7-0 again just like last year,” USF coach Don Barr said. “They’re a very tough team, especially indoors. We’re not really an indoor team.

“We had some shining moments, but we have to get a little stronger. They come at us pretty good, so we need to be more aggressive. Indoors is not the time to work on that.”

For a team that never practices or plays indoors, the adjustment to playing a top-10 team that works out every day on the hard courts was too much for the Bulls (1-1).

“Indoors you have to be a lot more aggressive,” Barr said. “You have to go for shots. With no wind factor, you can be more aggressive on the serve and volley. You don’t get into points because you can’t come and run to net, or the ball will get past you indoors faster.

“Indoors, you need bigger serves and score lots of ground points. Outside, you have to work the ball longer in the wind and the elements.”

Barr said the early-season defeat could pay dividends later in the week when USF travels to Gainesville to play No. 5 Florida. It was definitely a learning experience for the Bulls, who feature five newcomers.

“They did a number on us like they did last year, but it’s a good wakeup call early in the season,” Barr said. “We have to regroup for Florida Thursday.

“One thing they have to know is when an opponent is down, (Ole Miss) didn’t give us any breathing room,” Barr said. “We played good first sets, but in the second set, they really opened it up. You have to dictate to an opponent when you’re better than them. Take it to them.

“That’s what they did. They raised their level some, even more so in the second set. If we’re a top-20 team, we have to learn to do that.”

Barr highlighted juniors Renato Silveira and Sebastian Niedermayer as the two shining stars in an otherwise cloudy sky. Silveira dueled Claes Lindholm to a tiebreaker in the first set at No. 3, but then faded in the second to succumb 7-6 (7-5), 6-2. The aggressiveness of both Silveira and Niedermayer caught Barr’s eye.

With a huge serve, Niedermayer’s game was tailored to the indoor setting, and it showed in his performance.

Playing at No. 6, Niedermayer lost the first set 6-4, evened the match in the second with a 7-6 (8-6) triumph, but then failed to claim the Bulls’ first point when Karim Alayli took the super tiebreaker third set 10-7.

But, the play of top seed Paco Antelo left Barr scratching his head. After sitting out the Bulls’ season-opening 7-0 win against Bethune-Cookman when the Wildcats had five players, Antelo was overmatched against Alex Hartman at the top spot. Hartman, 24th in the nation, blanked Antelo 6-0 in straight sets.

Ranked 54th in the country, Antelo, who beat Hartman two years ago, couldn’t contend with the Rebels’ top gun.

“I’m a little disappointed in him,” Barr said. “He got beat 0 and 0, and he’s beaten him before. Even though (Hartman’s) a top-10, top-15 player, he didn’t bring out the game he’s capable of. He is definitely not an indoor player.

“Paco’s a counter puncher, which means he plays off the pace and has to come up with all the big shots. Indoors, you have to initiate the play, and that’s a big difference.”

Contact Anthony Gagliano at oracleanthony@yahoo.com

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