With three days of the USF Spring Invitational complete, the USF men’s tennis team is beginning to get back in the swing of things while working toward the goals the team and coach Don Barr have outlined.
The most ambitious of the goals is the prospect of making the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, a feat the Bulls have yet to accomplish.
“We’ve been very close but we’ve never done it,” Barr said. “We have gotten through the first round and now we need to get through the second as well.”
Winning a Conference USA championship, also a team goal, will help the Bulls make the NCAAs. But Barr won’t allow his players to ease up on the books in return for good play, and bad grades won’t come with the fulfillment of the team’s third goal for the season: a 3.0 team GPA.
Sunday, USF took on its biggest rival, UCF, after the Bulls blanked Florida A&M on Saturday. But early Sunday the Bulls’ doubles pairs couldn’t capitalize on the previous day’s success as all three pairs lost their matches.
The Bulls would rebound in singles, though, taking four of five matches from the Golden Knights. Success in singles is a change from the fall season that saw USF’s doubles teams shine (12-4) while singles struggled (30-35).
“In singles I thought we did a good job battling hard. I was a little disappointed with the doubles (pairs). They were a little flat coming out. Normally we’re pretty sharp with doubles,” Barr said. “We fought back and did well in the singles, so that was a good comeback.”
Highlighting the day for the Bulls was sophomore Federico Barton. He stood in for No. 27 ranked Uli Kiendl and defeated UCF’s top player Antonio Sierra 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Barton played in place of Kiendl, who is fighting a cold and was available only for his doubles match, and Paco Antelo, who was unavailable for the tournament.
“I’m very impressed with Freddy, (having moved) him up. He stood on the top position real well,” Barr said.
Today at 1 pm the Bulls square off against Clemson, which, like USF, was able to win every match against FAMU on Saturday. The Tigers finished last season 25-11 and were ranked No. 27 nationally. Their 2003 season ended when they lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“Clemson is a team that really fights hard. They don’t give you anything,” Barr said. “We’ve got to be prepared to play a tough match. And they are playing hard early (in the season) already so we’ll have our hands full for sure.”
Barr said playing a top team like Clemson will help prepare his team for a tough schedule ahead that includes six top-25 teams.
“We know where we have to be and we’re still a long way away from where we need to go,” Barr said. “Our biggest goal right now is to see these guys just play at their potential and to have a desire never to quit and to have big hearts. If we can get everyone to do that we’re going to wind up a very strong team.”
Barr said he would see today how Kiendl feels and make a match-time decision on whether he’ll play. Barr said Barton would be ready to step in again if necessary.