If the South Florida men’s tennis team plans to improve on last year’s second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament, they will need to learn from experiences such as the one it encountered this past weekend in Gainesville.
The Bulls faced Florida, Miami and Auburn at the Gator Invitational and did not fare well.
During the first day of the tournament, the Bulls lost more than just 7-of-8 matches to the Gators. Martin Wetzel, who splits time at the No.1 and No. 2 spot on the team as well as forming the Bulls top doubles tandem with Paco Antelo, left the tournament with a strained quadriceps muscle.
The extent of Wetzel’s injury is unknown, and he is scheduled to be examined by a doctor later this week.
Jorge Escallon and Nadim Naser were forced to move up in the lineup for USF and play the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, and the Bulls gave up a doubles and singles match.
Naser said a combination of unfortunate circumstances has made things difficult for the team. In addition to Wetzel’s injury, Max Dockhorn left the team shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to be closer to his family in Germany.
“I’ve played No. 3 before, it was just the whole atmosphere now, it’s not what it was before because of Max’s departure and Martin not playing and all the little things that add up to it,” Naser said. “We just have to get up to where we’re supposed to be.”
Naser, a junior, was the only Bull to win a match at the tournament. He defeated Matt Behrmann of Florida 6-0, 3-6, 7-5.After the lone victory against the Gators, USF dropped all its matches to Auburn and Miami.
“We played two top 20 teams in the country, it’s a good experience for us,” coach Don Barr said. “When you play at that level you have to be healthy and have a full team.”
The Bulls have held meetings since the tournament to reflect on where they are now and where they will have to progress in order to be a top echelon team such as Miami or Auburn.
The Bulls will play at home for the first time this season when they take on Jacksonville and Florida Atlantic this weekend.
“I hope we do better this weekend. We have to get back on track,” Naser said. “Everyone thinks we’re going to be doing well this year, that’s the big danger. We can’t just take it for granted.”