South Florida men’s tennis coach Don Barr said he’s certain the only way his team will get better is by playing strong competitors.
This season, the Bulls are getting plenty of opportunities to do just that.
USF went up against individuals and teams ranked in the top 50 this weekend in Arizona and finished with a 1-1 record.
“It’s definitely what we need to do to get our program established as a top tennis school in the country,” Barr said. “The only way we’re going to be able to do that is to compete and beat the players that are consistently at the top.”
Though No. 45 Arizona upset No. 34 USF 5-2 on Friday, Barr said he hopes going up against tough teams will attract more players to the program.
“Not only is our team getting stronger, but recruits will be looking at our schedule and see that we play one of the toughest in the country,” he said.
Barr said the most disappointing part of the loss was the close doubles competition. No. 18 duo Lucas Jovita and Thomas Estrada fell 9-8 and 7-3. Meanwhile, Romain Deridder and Wael Kilani lost 8-4 as Arizona won the doubles point.
“When we lose that doubles point against top teams, it’s very difficult to win matches,” Barr said. “We have to stress more on winning that doubles point. It’s a crucial part.”
The Bulls defeated No. 55 St. Mary’s 6-1 on Saturday, sweeping the Gaels in doubles and winning five of six singles.
“I thought our excellent showing was in Kilani,” Barr said. “He looked so strong.”
After the freshman defeated Arizona’s Andres Carrasco 6-2 and 6-0 in the No. 4 position, Barr moved Kilani to No. 2 where he beat St. Mary’s Maxime Olivan 6-4 and 6-2.
“I was in good shape and playing so well,” Kilani said. “I am comfortable and feel good in that role. I think I can play second position every weekend.”
This is the second weekend in a row the Bulls have bounced back from defeat to win the next day. USF lost to TCU on Jan. 31 and then defeated UC-Santa Barbara the next day. Barr said that’s because of the team’s effort.
“It’s about us fighting for every play,” he said. “We’ve learned to do as well as you can and not worry about wins and losses. It’s important to see how you’re competing and focus on the level that we’re playing.”