A winning season is just around the corner. All the USF women’s tennis team needs is two more victories this weekend, and it will finish 10-9.
The Bulls started this season with a record of 2-7. The turning point came on March 2, when the Bulls won 4-3 at Charlotte. Since then, the Bulls have racked up six wins compared to two losses.
“I hate to lose. When I was playing, I never hated anything more in my life than losing,” USF coach Gigi Fernandez said.
This is one of the qualities that Fernandez, who has won 17 Grand Slam doubles titles, has tried to instill in her players and is one of the reasons why the season has turned around.
“I just despise losing. A lot of times I would just win matches on pure will because I refused to lose,” Fernandez said. “That’s what I am teaching them, and I think they’re learning that. The last two wins were that – unwilling to give up.”
Coming off a 4-2 win against Cincinnati Wednesday, the Bulls will try to continue their winning momentum against DePaul (11-8) on Friday and Memphis (12-5) on Sunday. According to Fernandez, the match against DePaul poses the greatest challenge to the Bulls.
“DePaul is going to be the tougher of the two. They’re probably 3rd or 4th in the conference,” Fernandez said. “They’re just deep. They’re good all the way down (the line-up), and they’re a little more experienced than us. They’ve been ranked this year, and we haven’t.”
While DePaul is the tougher match, the Bulls are not overlooking Memphis, which has won four straight matches.
“They’re a good team. They’re pretty solid, and they have a lot of depth,” added Fernandez. “If we play well like we did on Wednesday and go out and battle, then I think we have a good chance of beating them.”
USF will have to overcome injuries to two of its players. Junior Gina Craig sprained a tendon in her foot in Wednesday’s match, and sophomore Patricia Kolendo is suffering from cramps.
There are only seven players on the team, and only six of them have played singles. Craig and Kolendo occupy two of those spots.
Although both will play this weekend, these matches will be a little harder than the rest.
“It’s been a great season as far as injuries are concerned, but it’s kind of toward the end (of the season), so the girls have kind of broken down a little bit,” Fernandez said. “Fitness is an issue.”
Because of the injuries, winning the doubles point is even more important in bringing home victories this weekend.
“If you don’t win the doubles point and you have two injured players that might not finish a match, that’s a lot of pressure on the four other players because all of them have to win,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said she is not having the team practice on one specific thing for their upcoming matches.
“Once you start to play, it’s more about competing, it’s more about the game plans, it’s more about the strategy,” Fernandez said. “It’s not about how you’re hitting your forehand or backhand.
“It doesn’t really matter how you play because you can play real bad and win, or play real good and lose. It’s how you compete and how you are able to be tough and hang in for points – winning ugly. It’s about the bottom line – who got the win.”