As far as national competitiveness goes, you don’t have to look much farther than the tennis courts on East Holly to find it at USF.
The trouble is, most don’t.
Still, the mostly unnoticed USF men’s tennis team’s reaction to the No. 52 ranking it earned entering the team’s spring season says a lot.
“Were not happy to be 52,” said USF coach Don Barr, whose team has consistently hovered around a No. 25-30 ranking.
The Bulls enter the season after earning some big wins in the fall season, defeating the nation’s No. 7 singles player as well as the No. 12 doubles team.
The spring schedule is highlighted by two matches against top-five teams in the country and is littered with top-30 teams all season, giving the Bulls plenty of opportunity to improve on their position.
The low ranking to start this season is the result of a number of circumstances, beginning with a tumultuous end to last season.
Injuries plagued the Bulls, who attempted the final four matches of the season with only four players, meaning singles matches were forfeited each match, putting the team at a huge disadvantage (it’s like starting a football game down 10-0). USF was left out of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000.
Later, Uli Kiendl, the Bulls No. 1 player, made the NCAA Individual Tournament and could have kept national attention on USF with a good showing but had to pass it up because of a knee injury.
Another big part of the low ranking is the number of unproven freshman who joined the team for this season. Freshman Marc Jager of Germany, Juan Carlos Gomez of Mexico, Mark Gattiker of Argentina and Dillon Brozyna of Tampa (USF’s first American player in some time) all need to accumulate wins to prove their worth.
“We really need some of our veteran players to be leaders this season,” Barr said. “We understand we have a lot of freshman and we have to prove ourselves again. It’s always good to be ranked in the beginning of the season, but rankings count for last year. We need to go out and prove to ourselves that we are better then our ranking of 52.
“They have to be ready to play top-notch tennis.”
USF opens its season Jan. 28 at the USF Invitational against Harvard.
It could be the beginning of a brilliant season.