Bulls beat Yale with ‘intense’ play

A balance of intensity may be one of the reasons why the women’s tennis team (7-3) has jumped out to a fast start.

The Bulls came out victorious 5-2 against the Yale Bulldogs (3-3) on Wednesday at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts. Coach Agustin Moreno attributed his team’s success to the play of freshman Iciri Rai and sophomore Courtney Vernon, who play at opposite ends of the spectrum.

“(Vernon) is very determined to make the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year, and she deserves it,” Moreno said. “She is so intense when she plays that I have to try and calm her down to prevent injury.”

Moreno asks the opposite of Rai when it comes to her play. Raising her intensity on the court has assisted in her victories this season.

“My team is always supporting me and giving me advice that helps when I’m under pressure,” Rai said. “Coach Moreno has helped me improve my intensity; I used to play really calm, but he makes me concentrate more (on the game).”

The Bulls are ranked No. 63 by the Fila Collegiate Tennis rankings. Yale, which is unranked, had the difficult task of trying to beat three nationally ranked players and one of the best doubles pairings in the country.

While all of the nationally ranked players helped lead USF to victory, it was the play of Rai that clinched the victory Wednesday. Rai’s 6-2, 6-2 singles victory over Olivia Nix gave the Bulls their fourth point of the match and improved Rai’s record to 5-5 this season.

“Iciri stepped up her singles play today,” Moreno said. “We need her to step up and play like that to win our next few matches.”

Vernon remained undefeated, improving her record to 9-0 following a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Janet Kim. According to the Fila Collegiate Singles Rankings, Vernon is No. 38 in the country. Neyssa Etienne (No. 53), Liz Cruz (No. 69) and Rai also won their singles matches to help USF improve a 7-3 record.

Etienne and Gabriela Duch are ranked No. 12 in doubles play and teamed to win their match 8-0 over Christine Alford and Aimee Kim. Cruz and Rai lost their doubles match 8-1. Vernon and Louisa Obando won 8-2 to secure the doubles point for the Bulls.