For the third time in as many years, the USF men’s tennis team came one win short of reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulls dropped their second round match to Texas A&M University 4-1 May 10 to conclude what Coach Don Barr called a successful season.
“It takes a little while to get everyone to come together and understand college tennis, and get together with one another,” Barr said. “But by the end of the year, I think that finally happened.”
USF entered the 2003 season with five newcomers, and still finished 18-9, just missing its team goal of being one of the final 16 teams in the nation.
“That was one of our goals, to get into the Sweet 16,” Barr said. “We were closer than we ever had been in the history of the school.
“We were one round away, and probably a couple games away.”
The Bulls picked up a victory, coming into their No. 1 singles when sophomore Uli Kiendl defeated No. 13 in the nation, Ryan Newport 6-4, 7-6.In his match during the first round of the tournament, Kiendl picked up another big victory by defeating No. 4 Bo Hodge (6-2, 7-6) of Georgia.
“Uli beating the No. 4 player in the country and then the No. 13 in country, he really played top notch tennis,” Barr said.
Even though Kiendl was the only Bull to pick up a victory, each player had competitive matches, especially the top three in USF’s lineup.
“Uli really stepped up, and in fact, our top three guys finally found what they needed earlier in the year,” Barr said.
Junior Paco Antelo, the Bulls No. 2, put up a fierce struggle before falling to No. 31 Lester Cook 7-5, 6-4.
At the No. 3 position, junior Renato Silveira was leading No. 50 Ante Matijevic, but the match did not finish.
“The kid called two injury time outs so he wouldn’t get beat,” Barr said.
Matijevic took two timeouts to tend to cramps in his legs to lengthen the match after he saw that Matt Loucks picked up another singles point for A&M with a 7-5, 7-6 defeat of Juan Barragan.
Matijevic wasn’t the only player cramping from he heat and humidity of the Texas weather.
Senior Jorge Escallon also felt cramping due to heat and the after effects of the Bulls long match against the No. 20 Bulldogs.
“I think that definitely was a factor because they were cramping up and (Texas A&M) was a lot fresher,” Barr said. “Jorge was starting to cramp, and Andy (Maroldt) was starting to cramp, and that’s Jorge’s biggest asset, his legs, so he could have won that match.”
Barr said that if not for the intensity and length of the recent match against the Bulldogs, the outcome against Texas A&M might have been different.
“Unfortunately, our match was really long against Georgia, and Texas A&M was a lot fresher,” Barr said. “(We) peaked at the right time, and really battled hard. If we wouldn’t have had a tough match against Georgia, we could have beaten them.”
Kiendl said the level of its final two matches of the season gives USF invaluable experience for 2004.
“The win against Georgia was really big for us,” Kiendl said. “It’s really big to beat this team 4-0. It gives us a lot of recognition next year. Teams are going to look for us.”
The Bulls will have the core of their team returning, including Kiendl, Antelo and Silveira as their No.s 1, 2 and 3 respectively.
“The experience that this team gained just battling in this atmosphere, (the team is) talking about moving their goals to the top ten,” Barr said.
The Bulls will have help chasing a top 10 ranking next season with the addition of doubles recruits.
Argentinan Matias Sigal has signed a letter of intent and figures to be a No. 3 or No. 4 player in 2003-04.
“If we can beef up our doubles to secure the double points, that will help us,” Barr said. ‘If we get that doubles point it will be real tough for a team to beat USF four out of six singles.”