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Coming off sweep, tennis team faces big tests

Coming off a 7-0 win against Georgia Southern University Feb. 15, the USF women’s tennis team goes on the road to play Miami and Florida International this weekend.

Miami is currently ranked No. 14 in the nation, and FIU is ranked No. 64. Miami poses the biggest threat for the team this weekend.

“Miami has a really good team this year,” USF coach Gigi Fernandez said. “They are probably going to end up in the top 10 to 15 this year. They could even be in the top five.”

Fernandez said that the team isn’t at the level to compete with top-15 programs. The goal right now is to improve the talent and skills of the team and give it more experience.

While Miami is heavily favored to win, FIU seems to be a more competitive match for USF.

“Against FIU, we are a little more evenly matched,” Fernandez said. “I think if we play well, then we have a chance to beat them.”

Both USF and FIU have similar problems since they both lack experience. FIU has three true freshmen and a redshirt freshman on its team, and USF has three freshmen in Luisa Obando, Belen Pandre and Fabiana Taverna. In addition, Taverna and Obando are USF’s top two singles players, and they also form the top doubles team.

Although the team will only be traveling to Miami for its matches, it has not played away from USF since a trip Florida State Jan. 25.

“The fact is that when you play on the road, you have less of a chance to win,” Fernandez said.

In the fall, Fernandez worked on the technical aspects of the game with the team. She made changes in the team’s strokes and its overall game.

Now the team is building on what it has learned and trying to transfer the techniques used in practice into its matches.

“We’re learning some new double formations. Just different ways to open up to win the point–to set up the point,” junior Gina Craig said.

Along with the knowledge Fernandez possesses, she also brings the experience of winning 17 Grand Slam doubles titles. She is able to evaluate an opposing player’s strengths and weaknesses to help the team make the necessary changes to win the match.

“We have a great coach this year that we are learning new things from,” Craig said. “We’re just going to try our best and hopefully make it close.”

Fernandez said the most important element in helping the team win is the bottom of the line-up.

“FIU is very deep up front, and then they kind of tailor down a little bit, so if you can win those (matches at) three, four and five, that’ll be key,” Fernandez said.