Over the weekend, the USF men’s tennis team put down the best Alabama had to offer. The Bulls beat No. 17 Alabama 4-3 at home Friday before traveling to Auburn where they defeated the No. 29 Tigers 4-3.
“Those were two very tough teams, and they are getting better. We have to get better, too,” USF coach Don Barr said.
With both teams ranked above them, the Bulls went into the match as underdogs. Barr said being the underdogs made playing the match much easier on his anxious players.
“I think they are hungry to prove themselves,” Barr said. “With those teams coming in, it’s a win-win situation. With teams that are supposed to beat us, we can go out and play our game without pressure.”
Pressure, however, was the theme of the weekend, as both matches went into a fifth hour, and the match against the Tigers came down to the last set.
“They were still sore on Saturday and even still sore on Sunday,” Barr said. “I am sure they are still sore today.”
Uli Kiendl, who beat Gabor Zoltan-Pelva 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, ultimately decided the match. Both Kiendl and Pelva are nationally ranked at No. 69 and No. 40, respectively.
“When the match went down to Uli, everyone gathered around shouting, ‘Go Bulls, Go USF,'” Barr said.
It is that kind of team chemistry Barr said he is still looking for. And despite improvements this weekend, Barr said he also would like to see his teams’ doubles performances improve. Kiendl’s match may not have been as important had the Bulls won the doubles point.
“Giving a little more consistency at No. 1 doubles would help us,” Barr said.
Consistent or not, the Bulls did win their doubles point Friday. All three doubles teams won their matches, which was the deciding factor in the 4-3 victory. All in all though, Barr said he was happy with the way the weekend turned out.
“They are competing really well,” Barr said. “I am very pleased how we are competing right now.”
Barr stressed, however, that his team couldn’t afford to be complacent. He said that they could “compete with anyone in the country” due to their talent, but that they must continue to get even better.
“We can’t just relax, we have to make sure we keep improving,” Barr said.Ways to improve, Barr said, include becoming physically more sound, especially to compete in the rising temperatures. Barr said if his team could learn to play in the hot South Florida weather that they would be at a distinct advantage.
“With the heat coming on, there isn’t a team that can come down here and beat us,” Barr said.