As the USF women’s tennis team is faced with playing another ranked team, it is also faced with improving itself mentally.
The Bulls take on the challenge of hosting Florida State today (4-3), the No. 57 team in the country, after posting a 2-6 record, winning matches against unranked opponents Stetson and Georgia Southern.
“I evaluate their effort more so than their actual win-loss record,” USF coach Gigi Fernandez said. “They are put in situations that are tough for them right now. We are not ready to beat a program like some of the top 50 schools that we are facing.”
One of USF’s freshmen who is in a tough situation is No. 1 player Fabiana Taverna, who has compiled a 3-5 record headlining the Bulls’ starting lineup, including USF’s only win against Stetson.
The win against the Hatters may mark a turning point for Taverna.
“I think that she now understands how she needs to compete against some of these players,” Fernandez said. “If she goes out and competes the same way, she has a good chance of going out and beating some of these No.1’s.”
Being the No.1 player poses the challenge of having to face the opposition’s best player, match in and match out.
“Every school has a good No.1,” Fernandez said. “She’s our No.1, so she’s always facing good competition.”
This challenge has brought out a poor effort from Taverna in recent matches, which may have been resolved in the win against Stetson.
Taverna has to play some of her best tennis today against the Seminoles’ No. 1 player, Anca Dumitrescu, who is ranked No. 50 in the country.
“I think with her, Fabi has to really be on her best behavior and put out her best effort, which has been an issue for her in past matches,” Fernandez said. “She gets disappointed early because everyone at No. 1 is strong.”
Even with the disadvantage of playing top players constantly, Fernandez has high hopes for the freshman.
“I think she’s capable of beating these players,” Fernandez said. “I think she’s the most talented player on our team. She really is the player that I look to eventually win some of these matches.”
Despite some attitude issues, the Bulls have impressed its first-year coach through their struggles.
“We have a lot of fire,” Fernandez said. “We had some issues with some players not giving their all. That’s been addressed. But for the most part, I’m very happy and very pleased with their effort level. They fight like crazy.”
USF now faces another problem when it plays FSU without its No. 2 player.Patricia Kolendo will miss the match because of an illness she has been feeling for about a month.
“We hope it’s not (mononucleosis),” Fernandez said. “We are waiting to get the test results back, but she’s been sick for almost a month. She was a trooper this weekend, and she played two matches for us. We are probably going to sit her tomorrow under doctor’s recommendation.
“Hopefully she will play this weekend.”
Rachel Constantine contributed to this report.