Owls will serve it up against Bulls

MEN’S TENNIS GAME TIMERice (0-0) at USF (0-0)When: Sun., noonWhere: USF Varsity Tennis CourtsTV/Radio: N/A

The South Florida men’s tennis team is going through a trial by fire this season.

USF has already faced quality opponents like the Auburn Tigers (ranked 28th in the nation) and the Virginia Tech Hokies, ranked in the top 40. USF’s team, young as it is, is trying to accomplish the difficult task of gaining experience by playing quality competition and striving to win at the same time.

Last weekend, the Bulls hosted a three-day Spring Invitational Tournament against Central Florida, Auburn and Virginia Tech. As the Bulls continued the trend of defeating the Knights, they also got the chance to see how they measured up against some of the best in the nation.

The Tigers went down in a hard-fought series, splitting six singles matches with USF, while the Bulls took two of the three doubles matchups. Virginia Tech was part of Sunday’s doubleheader and the Hokies relied on their experience to take the series 6-3.

“We really battled hard. If you look at the results, we have made a lot of improvement this season,” coach Don Barr said.

The trial by fire continues this weekend as the Rice Owls, ranked 32nd in the nation, come to Tampa to face the Bulls Sunday at noon.

Conference USA player of the week Bruno Rosa, the Owls’ star player and winner of the 2008 National Collegiate Tennis Classic last weekend, will be an interesting challenge for USF’s No. 1 player, Mahmoud Hamed. Hamed is playing at a high level in both singles and doubles, largely justifying his ranking in the top 100.

The match against the Owls will mark the first time team records will be counted as well as individual ones. This distinction will make it the match in which the road to the Big East championship and the NCAA Tournament officially starts.

“The mindset is the same as when we were playing the individual tournaments, our focus doesn’t change,” said Barr.