Since the conference’s inception in 2013, USF men’s tennis has dominated the AAC, winning the conference championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament every year.
To start the 2018 season, however, the Bulls (0-2) haven’t been their usual selves, dropping their first two matches, both by a score of 5-2. The Bulls’ losses came against No. 14 Mississippi State (3-0) on Friday and Tulsa (2-2) on Sunday.
"Today was disappointing,” USF coach Ashley Fisher said after USF’s loss to Tulsa. “We put ourselves in a position to take control of the match and didn't take it. We also struggled with some of the ebbs and flows of the match and did not compete at the standard we expect of ourselves.”
Last season, USF defeated Tulsa by scores of 5-0 and 4-0, with its last loss to the Golden Hurricane coming on March 29, 2015. When it faced Mississippi State, ranked No. 18 at the time last season, the Bulls beat the Bulldogs 4-2 in Tampa.
A possibility for the Bulls’ slow start is its absence of former players Sasha Gozun and Vadym Kalyuzhnyy, who graduated last season and have since gone pro.
Even without Gozun and Kalyuzhnyy, however, one silver lining for the Bulls in 2018 has been their performance in doubles.
While the Bulls are a combined 2-10 in singles matches, they secured the doubles point against the Bulldogs and Golden Hurricane.
“We wanted to set the tone for the season by showing we can fight unconditionally and we achieved that,” Fisher said. “We have things to work on like all teams, but if we can continue to grow as a team and improve our culture, good things are going to happen.”
Losing early in the season is nothing new for USF, as it started last season 2-4 before finishing the season 16-5 and making it into the NCAA Tournament’s second round.
The Bulls will have their first chance at a win this season on Saturday against Pepperdine (0-1), who they beat 4-2 last season, in Gainesville at 2 p.m.