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Men’s tennis poised for breakout year

For the second year in a row the men’s tennis team finished third place in the Big East Championship.

The Bulls hope to get over that hump and compete for the NCAA National Championship Tournament in 2007-08.

Last season the team was a young one, consisting of seven freshmen. They finished out the season with a 7-13 record and lost seven matches by a score of 4-3.

“They didn’t really know what to expect or how to prepare for it,” said coach Don Barr. “Last season really gave them a picture of what college tennis is all about.”

Even though there may not have been much experience, talent swarmed the team. Thomas Estrada, Ales Svigelj and Mahmoud Hamed were named to the Big East men’s All-Tournament singles team. Hamed and Estrada were also named to the Big East doubles team, which is the first such accolade since South Florida joined the conference.

It will be tough losing four players from last year – two to graduation and two to recruitment from other schools – but USF has done some recruiting of its own. International players Michael Nuesslein and Jamal Adderley have agreed to join the Bulls.

At No. 9 in the nation in the junior tennis rankings, Nuesslein, from Germany, hopes to be a spark for next year’s team. Adderley is traveling from the Bahamas and is ranked in the top 200 worldwide in the junior’s.

Many of the returning players have worked hard in the off-season, competing in shape-up tournaments around the world. Svigelj has concentrated on his doubles play, winning two tournaments while Hamed traveled to Africa and played for the Egyptian Team. Thomas Estrada has been competing in tournaments in Columbia and Toledo.

This young group of athletes will need all the experience they can get going into a season where USF will compete against more than 10 nationally ranked teams. USF opens the season in a tournament playing against No. 34 Rice, No. 18 Florida State and No. 16 Florida.

The Big East is also beginning to gain notoriety in the tennis world. Notre Dame, which finished in the top ten last year, Louisville and St. John’s plan to have strong teams next year and compete for the Big East crown.

“It reminds me a lot of when we were in Conference USA,” said Barr. “There were maybe one or two teams that were strong and now almost all of them are strong. I can see the same thing happening with the Big East.”

The 2007-2008 men’s tennis year could turn out to be an exciting one that is wrapped in success. There are high hopes for this upcoming season, and much is expected from this young team.

“With the players that I have and the ones coming in,” said Barr. “I think that we could win a Big East Championship this year. I think that all the other teams need to look out for us.”