A pair of victories and an end to the Bulls’ three-game losing streak with a convincing 6-1 upset of Miami was the perfect send-off for seniors Jorge Escallon and Nadim Naser.
Escallon got a victory at No. 6 singles against the Hurricanes Saturday, and then the pair each recorded wins Sunday to conclude their home careers with a 7-0 win vs. Jacksonville.
“I can’t say enough for these two first-class persons,” USF coach Don Barr said. “They mean so much to this team, not only on the court, but off of it as well. They have displayed such leadership here at USF by helping the new guys out when they come in and by pointing this team in the right direction. These two players are a coach’s dream. I can’t say enough about them.”
In addition to their leadership skills, Escallon and Naser flashed their talents on the court Sunday, breezing through easy victories as they each surrendered one game in two-set sweeps.
It almost seemed like there was a friendly bet on who would finish his match first, and there was.
“It was an understood, underground gentleman’s bet,” Escallon said. “I only got him by a half a minute.”
Added Naser, “He won by one game, which is nothing new. He is a true competitor, and I try to compete with him whenever I can.”
Playing the No. 5 and 6 singles, respectively, Escallon and Naser downed their opponents in record time. Escallon won his match against JU’s Dale Alderman 6-0, 6-1, while Naser won with a similar score, a 6-1, 6-0 triumph against Rich Davoli.
The Bulls started out the day sweeping the doubles point behind the duo of Naser and sophomore Andres Maroldt. They took care of Jacksonville’s doubles team of Davoli and Alderman 8-0.
Before the singles matches were played, Escallon and Naser were honored in a small ceremony where they were presented plaques with their accomplishments at USF.
Reflecting on his career, Naser wants to be remembered as a tough competitor, a good friend and a leader on his team.
“I was happy that I got the chance to play singles (Sunday),” Naser said. “Uli (Kiendl) stepped down, allowing me to finish my last match at USF. I am also glad I got to play a great doubles match with my partner and good friend, Andy.
“I’m not finished here at USF. I will continue to support this team next year and the years to come and contribute anything that I can.”
Escallon echoed Naser’s sentiments, saying he feels the same way about his team and university.
“I had a lot of fun here at USF,” Escallon said. “I learned a lot about life, and I met a lot of great people who I will have lifelong friendships with. I take pride in that I feel I really did make a contribution to USF and the long-term success of this great tennis program.”
Escallon said he felt the most important thing he and Naser accomplished in their senior year was being there for their new teammates and helping them progress into better tennis players as well as people.
“Nadim and I try to be tutors to the rest of the guys and be leaders so we can show them all the things we have learned in our journey through college,” Escallon said. “We just want to bring the best out of everybody.”
Naser and Escallon have impressive records in singles competition at USF. Escallon compiled a 40-19 record, while Naser racked up 38 wins and 27 losses.
In Saturday’s competition, the No. 48 Bulls took care of the 25th-ranked Hurricanes 6-1.
The Bulls started the day on the right foot. USF grabbed No. 2 doubles when Kiendl and Juan Barragan beat Tim Krebs and Luis Manrique 8-3.
Miami quickly answered, winning No. 3 doubles 8-2, but the duo of Paco Antelo and Renato Silveira responded for the Bulls, winning the match 8-6 and the doubles point for USF.
South Florida carried its momentum into singles play. The first Bull to gain a victory was Escallon at No. 6 when he beat Krebs 6-1, 6-1.
The victory gave the Bulls a 2-0 lead, but Miami wouldn’t go down so easily. When Eric Hechtman beat Maroldt 6-2, 6-2, it cut the Bulls’ lead in half. At that point, the Bulls never looked back, grabbing victories at No. 3, 5, 2 and 1, respectively.
The clinching match came at No. 5 when Federico Barton beat Colin Purcell 6-2, 6-2, winning the match for the Bulls. Kiendl beat Todd Widom, No. 14 in the nation, 4-6, 6-3, (10-1) at No. 1 singles.
“I was very proud of these Bulls this weekend,” Barr said. “Renato stepped up his play. I can’t say enough about Jorge. He is just Mr. Consistent.
“(Federico) beat a guy on Miami that has won six in a row. The team played very well against two tough teams. We learned a lot from our trip to Baylor, and I’ve seen the guys stepping up their game and going for the shots. I feel we are on our way to the Conference USA Tournament and the NCAAs.”