Men’s tennis serves up first Big East season

The USF men’s tennis team will begin preparations for its spring season on Friday when it hosts Central Florida, Clemson, William & Mary and Memphis in the 2006 USF Spring Classic.

After finishing with a 10-15 record and tying for third in Conference USA last season, the Bulls are entering this season excited about the possibility of excelling in their first year as members of the Big East.

Coach Don Barr is entering his 14th season at USF and feels that one key for success this year is a strong display of leadership by the squad’s upperclassmen.

“Right now we have three seniors and three sophomores,” Barr said. “The team has a mix of experience and inexperience, so that indicates that the seniors will have to step up and lead the team this year for sure.”

However, the relative youth of this year’s squad has not stopped Barr from setting some ambitious goals.

“Well, we definitely want to go for the conference championship, that’s our main goal,” Barr said. “If we do that we’d get into the NCAA (tournament), that’s our number two goal, and our third goal is to accomplish at least a 3.0 GPA as a team.”

One player who should contribute greatly as the Bulls strive to accomplish their goals is Dirk Britzen. The senior had a breakout season last fall when he went 12-1 and earned a ranking of 11 in the Southeastern region by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Barr recognizes Britzen’s talent and believes it will be the leadership shown by Britzen and the team’s other upperclassmen that will be the key for success.

“We have one of the toughest regions in the country, so that ranking is a compliment to Dirk on his level of play,” Barr said. “Our other two seniors, Freddy Barton and Juan Barragan, I know are looking forward to finishing out the season strong, and I know that they, along with Dirk, really have a chance to make an impact for us this year.”

After two straight seasons in which injuries prevented the team from reaching its full potential, this year’s squad is looking at a shift in conferences as a chance to get the USF men’s tennis program back on the winning track. Ironically enough, the Bulls have a long road ahead of them on the way to achieving their No. 1 goal and won’t have to travel far to reach it.

This year’s Big East Conference Tournament will be held April 20 and 21 at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts.