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Bulls prove they can contend

The USF men’s tennis team proved it could play with the top teams in the country in a series of preseason matches last weekend. But beating the teams in the spring could be another challenge if they don’t improve.

USF traveled to the Gainesville Invitational on Friday for a weekend of matches against Miami, Florida and Mississippi.

The weekend got progressively better for the Bulls who lagged behind Friday, winning only one singles match out of six against the Hurricanes. Results improved Saturday against the Gators when USF won two doubles and two singles and had the same outcome Sunday, winning two matches in both singles and doubles.

“It was good teams (and) good competition,” USF coach Don Barr said. “(This weekend) shows that we are right there, but not there yet. We just need to keep working.”

After winning two doubles Friday, the Bulls lost five matches, four of which were only two sets long. The only singles victory came from the No. 4 match when USF’s Freddy Barton defeated Colin Purcell 6-4, 6-4. Miami is currently 33rd in the ITA and has one player ranked in the top- #100 singles rankings.

Despite the lack of match victories Saturday, the Bulls earned two wins in doubles and singles play against the Gators. Florida is ranked No. 2 in Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason rankings and has two players in the top 10 as well as a doubles team in the top 50.

“I am pleased that we did hang with them,” Barr said.

Though Barr said he was happy with his team’s performance, he conceded that nothing short of winning against the Gators would make him happy. Recent years have seen close matches between the two teams and the Bulls look at Florida as more than just a friendly match.

“We have a good rivalry with Florida,” Barr said. “I hate to give them anything.”

After the close competition in doubles against Florida, which resulted in two USF wins, the Bulls struggled through but won two singles matches. Barton and Renato Silveira won the only singles matches of the day, defeating their opponents, 1-6, 7-6, 6-4 and 7-6, 7-5 respectively.

“A lot of improvements still need to be made,” Barr said. “We need to get quicker and have better stamina.”

Oddly enough, USF posted the same results Sunday that it did Saturday, the only difference was Mississippi, which is ranked No. 42, a few steps below USF’s preseason ranking of 38. Doubles once more proved to be USF’s strength as it won two matches. USF’s Paco Antelo and Juan Barragan won Sunday; they both defeated their opponents in two sets rather easily. Antelo defeated Florent Girod 6-4, 7-6, while Barragan beat Max Fomine (No. 84 ITA singles rankings) 6-4, 6-3.

The only thing that seemed stable for the Bulls during the Invitational was the strong performance from their doubles teams, which went 6-2 for the weekend.

“Doubles was very big last year,” Barr said. “And I tell the guys if we want to get in to the top 20 or 25, we need to get those doubles points.”

Although the performance from the doubles teams was constant, the pairings were not. USF’s new transfer, from Kentucky, Karim Benmansour, was paired with two different players during the course of the weekend, including Antelo who is going to the ITA All-American Championships.

“We are experimenting with Karim in the mix,” Barr said. “He is still learning the system and the team concept.”

Overall, Barr said he was happy with the results this weekend, and is using the fall season as any other sport would use their preseason. And although Barr said that his team needs work, they are ready to take on the challenge of becoming a great team.

“If the goals are set and the commitment is there, we will break all the tennis records at this school,” Barr said.