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Men’s tennis splits weekend matches

Jacksonville 0, USF 7

The No. 57 USF men’s tennis team (2-2, 0-0), tested itself and split two series against formidable intrastate opponents, Jacksonville University and the Florida Gators.

The Bulls’ first series of the weekend – against the Gators in Gainesville on Friday – was a tough road test against a team ranked 19th in the nation that boasts three players in the top 100.

The series started off with three doubles matches that UF swept handily. An early 1-0 lead for the Gators meant USF would have to win four of its six singles matches to take the series.

“We lost the doubles matches too fast. If we had won the doubles point, Florida wouldn’t have been so confident playing singles,” said freshman Michael Nusslein, USF’s No. 3 singles player, after the match.

Things didn’t look too bright for USF as senior Mahmoud Hamed dropped the first match to Florida’s Greg Ouellette, ranked No. 8 in the nation, 6-2, 6-0.

But the Bulls quickly recovered, as Lucas Jovita cut into the deficit with a decisive 6-3, 6-4 victory against Alex Lacroix, who is ranked 57th in the country and is Florida’s second-best player.

The series turned in the third match. USF’s No. 6 player, Thomas Estrada, endured a tough first set but rebounded in the second, up 5-3 and with set point on his serve against Johnny Hamui.

Estrada couldn’t capitalize; Hamui rebounded and broke him twice to take the match 6-1, 7-5. Florida had a 3-1 lead that would turn into a series-clinching 4-1 after a loss by Jeff Dadamo. USF’s Jamaal Adderley and Nusslein won their matches for a final series score of 4-3, leaving a feeling of “what if?” with coach Don Barr and his players.

“We were right on it. Thomas had all the momentum and probably would have taken the third set had he won that point. The series would have turned out a different way,” Barr said.

The Bulls came home Sunday to face Jacksonville University and bounced back with a decisive 7-0 sweep. There were a couple of changes in the lineup, as Jovita became the No. 1 singles player, Hamed became No.2 and Estrada was left out of the lineup.

The Bulls left no doubt about who would take the series, as three of the top four players won their matches 6-1, 6-2. Hamed won his match 6-2, 6-1.

“We wanted to bounce back from Friday’s loss, which was tough but at the same time gave us more confidence and experience as a team,” Hamed said.