The USF men’s tennis team faces its first big challenge this season, going up against No. 17 South Alabama today at 2 p.m.The 38th-ranked Bulls are coming off a strong showing this past weekend, defeating both Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M 7-0.Not only do the Bulls want to prove to the nation they can play with top competition, but there is also an added incentive to perform well against a Jaguar team that beat them 6-1 last year at South Alabama.
“It is going to be a challenge for sure, and being early in the season, we will need to learn from our mistakes in order to help ourselves later on in the season,” said Bulls coach Don Barr.
Today’s match will feature the return of Bulls sophomore Martin Wetzel, who finished undefeated (15-0) during the regular season last year in singles play. Wetzel has been nursing a left quadriceps injury and finally is 100 percent ready for action.
For the Jaguars, Kosta Zinchonka is coming off a fine 2001 campaign in which he made it to the NCAA singles semifinals and earned All-American honors. USA also has the 48th- ranked player in the nation, junior Christian Thull, to slow down the Bulls.
Despite the obstacles, the Bulls are very optimistic about being successful this year against the Jaguars, who will be playing in their first match this season.
“It’s nice to have gotten the butterflies out already, so I definitely see an advantage for us in the fact that it will be their first match of the season,” said senior Dan McCain, who transferred from Michigan this season and likes the Bulls’ chances this year.
“I think we are a better team than the Top-20 team I played for at Michigan my sophomore year. I feel my game has improved, yet I probably will be playing the same singles position here that I was playing in Ann Arbor.”
McCain also feels the team is ranked a little lower than it should be, but that will all come around once the Bulls prove themselves on the court.
“Uli Kiendl (freshman from Germany) is an outstanding player, and I don’t think the nation realizes how good we actually are,” McCain said.
- Chris Lemke covers men’s tennis and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org