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Bulls begin season

Imagine being apart of an experienced team, leaving it for a semester and then returning to an almost entirely new set of teammates.

That’s exactly what happened to USF senior Mahmoud Hamed of the men’s tennis team.

The Bulls begin the season this weekend, hosting Memphis University, University of Illinois and Florida A&M on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Hamed, who spent last semester playing internationally on an open circuit, returns to one of the youngest teams under Don Barr, who has been coaching for 16 years.

“I noticed we have four or five new freshmen this year,” Hamed said. “Our team is going to be much stronger this year because of the new players.”

UI’s Fighting Illini are ranked No. 15 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and are led by sophomore Roy Kalmanovich, who is ranked No. 23 in the singles division.

Hamed said he isn’t sure how the younger players will adjust to the collegiate level.

“They are already matched up, but they are not used to the collegiate matches yet, so they will probably need two or three matches to get used to the system,” he said. “They’re going to be pretty good when they start the season.”

Barr said he’s expecting this weekend to be a tough start for a squad with six new players.

“We’re going to have to play each match and, hopefully, we’ll improve from day to day,” he said. “I’m looking to see where we are breaking down, how mentally tough we are for when times get tough.”

The Bulls could be a bit rusty. Over the holiday break the team wasn’t able to work out together and players practiced together sparingly, but Barr said he expects his team to anticipate the intensity of this weekend’s games.

“Every time the players are representing their school, they have to come out here and look for a battle,” he said. “I don’t care who they play.”