The weekend was bittersweet for the USF men’s tennis team, especially for the team’s seniors. The Bulls snapped a four-game losing streak for Seniors’ Day on Saturday but lost a crucial match Friday, a match that could have earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“It looks even tougher now with the loss to Irvine and Central Florida; I think it looks tougher now for the at-large bid, and I think what we have to do is at least get a win over a ranked team (at conference),” USF coach Don Barr said.
The loss to UCF came Wednesday, when the Bulls limped through a 4-3 loss. The Friday match against UC Irvine mirrored the loss earlier in the week; the Bulls gave up doubles, No. 5 singles and No. 6 singles because of injury, coming up just short and losing 4-3.
“(Having so many injuries is) disappointing, but it is part of the challenge you have to go through,” Barr said. “All coaches go through this.”
The Bulls forfeited No. 6 doubles again Saturday, but despite injury they walked away with a 5-2 victory over the Jacksonville Dolphins. The match was the last home match for the seniors, some who battled through injury just to play.
“The seniors (are disappointed) because they know this is their last go at it,” Barr said. “I know the seniors are a little bit down.”
At 12-6, the Bulls are sure to drop in the rankings and drop off the bubble for an at-large bid to the NCAAs. Barr said that USF’s best chances are to get players as healthy as they can in order to pick up some wins against ranked teams before the Conference USA championship starts Thursday. The Bulls have one regular season match left against No. 6 Mississippi, but Barr is not going to play all of his athletes.
“Conference is the one we have to go after now,” Barr said. “I wish we could have a full team for Mississippi.”
Because they are so tainted with injury, Barr said he would hold out several of his players in order to get them rested and in the best shape for conference.
“We are still banged up,” Barr said. “I know that we won’t have, for Mississippi’s match, Karim (Benmansour) or Paco (Antelo) and possibly Renato (Silviera).”
If healthy, the Bulls are a major threat, Barr said. Giving up a shot at Mississippi was just one way that Barr would try to make the team a threat at the C-USA Championship.
“We can compete with anybody in the country if we are healthy; there is no doubt about that,” Barr said.