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Bulls keep confidence in check against Brown

Confidence, not overconfidence, was on display Monday afternoon at the USF tennis courts as the USF men’s tennis team came back to defeat Brown 5-2 after losing four out of six first sets in singles play.

The Bulls (ranked No. 29 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll) started off the afternoon solid, defeating the Bears’ (ranked No. 46) doubles teams to give USF a 1-0 advantage.

At the No. 1 doubles position, USF’s Paco Antelo and Uli Kiendl defeated Brown’s No. 1 tandem of Nick Malone and Jamie Cerrentani 8-5. Brown won the No. 3 doubles position 8-5 with Chris Drake and Kris Goddard teaming up to beat the Bulls No. 3 team of Jorge Escallon and Nadim Naser. But the Bulls No. 2 duo, Dan McCain and Martin Wetzel, rolled past Brown’s Nick Goldberg and Adil Shamasdin with ease 8-2, to give USF the doubles point.

However, the momentum swung to Brown after the first sets of singles play.

Only Wetzel (7-5 over Drake at No. 3) and Kiendl (6-2 over Goldberg at No. 4) were able to win their first sets for the Bulls.

“I’m always watching the scoreboard and trying to cheer the other guys on,” Wetzel said. “So I knew we were down and needed a boost. Plus it helps me while I am playing.”

Wetzel, who went undefeated in singles matches all last season, continued his undefeated string this year by finishing off Drake in the second set, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win 6-4.

Meanwhile, Antelo was busy struggling at No. 1 against Malone. Antelo eventually lost 6-3, 6-4, and the rest of the Bulls went to a third set.

A strong comeback from McCain at the No. 2 over Cerrentani was especially inspiring. After dropping the first set 6-3, McCain fought back from a 2-1 deficit, and after an extremely long rally won by Cerrentani, he regained his composure to take the second and third sets 6-4.

“All day I was trying to find a strategy, and once I found it, things started to work,” McCain said. “Playing these guys (Brown – an Ivy League school) is like ‘athletic chess,’ and my match was a perfect example.”

In similar fashion to McCain, Naser came back to defeat Brown’s Ben Brier at No. 5 singles. After losing the first set 6-4, Naser took the second set 6-2 and the third set 6-3 to earn the point for the Bulls.

Kiendl eventually went on to defeat Goldberg at the No. 4, finishing him off 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. At No. 6, Escallon gave a strong effort against Brown’s normal No. 2 player Justin Natale, falling in three sets 4-6, 7-5, 5-7.

The Bulls (5-1) will take their experiences and their confidence with them this weekend to Texas for the Conference USA Invitational to be held at TCU.

“We had a lot of very tough matches, and for them to feel the pressure and then battle back into it, come back, and win is very, very good,” USF coach Don Barr said. “It shows a tremendous amount of heart and is a good sign heading into the weekend.”

  • Chris Lemke covers men’s tennis and can be reached at oraclesports@yahoo.com