The USF women’s tennis team (6-2) went into the weekend ranked No. 28 nationally and carrying a lot of momentum. Despite losing its first two matches of the season on the trip, the team gained valuable experience by facing two of the best teams in the nation: No. 1 Georgia Tech and No. 5 Georgia.
The four-match road trip started against the Stetson Hatters in DeLand, Fla., where not even a short rain delay could prevent the Bulls from having a perfect day. USF swept the Hatters 7-0, winning all three doubles matches for the first point and all six singles matches to complete the sweep.
Senior Liz Cruz and junior Iciri Rai teamed up for the first time this season at the No. 1 doubles position, defeating the tandem of Valentina Galbarini and Unnati Purushotham, 8-6.
Cruz also experienced how good it feels to be at the top. She made her season debut as the No. 1 singles player and didn’t disappoint, defeating Galbarini 7-5, 6-0 in a very solid showing.
The Bulls didn’t have much time to relish the victory, as they had to travel to Atlanta to face the Winthrop Eagles the very next day.
USF continued to play well and remained undefeated, beating the Eagles 4-2.
The Bulls won two of three doubles matches, and Rai stayed hot on the season, winning her sixth-straight singles match by defeating Lisa Wilkinson, 6-2, 6-3.
That win took the Bulls to a season record of 6-0, and seemed to give enough momentum for optimism about the team’s chances the next day against the Georgia Yellow Jackets, a formidable team that just happens to be ranked first in the nation and is the defending national champion.
Bulls’ coach Agustin Moreno praised Winthrop’s play after the matches, saying he believes that the Eagles are “extremely underrated” and they “should find their way to the rankings very soon.”
The tail end of the road trip wasn’t all roses and praises. Facing the Yellow Jackets on Saturday and the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday showed the Bulls how much they still have to accomplish and improve.
The Yellow Jackets showed why they are the best in the nation. They beat USF 7-0 by winning every doubles and singles match without allowing more than three games in a set in four of the five singles matches.
The Georgia Bulldogs then added to USF’s disappointment with a 6-1 victory against the Bulls.
Overall, the girls finished the road trip 2-2 and gained valuable experience in a hostile environment. The play of Rai and Cruz are bright spots for what promises to be an exciting season for a team that can contend and surprise the crowd.