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USF youth shine in opening weekend

South Florida’s freshmen shone as the men’s tennis team went 2-1 overall this weekend in the USF Invitational.

Freshman Wael Kilani pulled off an upset of University of Illinois senior Marc Spicijaric — ranked No. 102 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association — on Saturday after dropping the first set.

Kilani beat Spicijaric 7-6 and 6-4 in the last two sets to capture one of USF’s two individual victories over the No. 15-ranked Fighting Illini.

“Wael (Kilani) showed a lot of guts,” said USF Coach Don Barr. “I thought he did an excellent job and battled through it. I see where he can really move up into the rankings and become one of our
top players.”

The Bulls lost to Illinois 2-6 on Saturday as a team. However, they defeated Memphis University 12-2 on Friday and trounced Florida A&M University 12-0 in both singles and doubles matches.

Kilani and sophomore Romain Deridder highlighted the win over Memphis with an 8-4 doubles victory. Both won their singles matches against Memphis as well.

Kilani attributed his success with Deridder to their relationship off the court.

 “I think we have good communication because we are good friends,” he said.

Freshmen Alex Pukal and Yannick Yoshizawa upset Illinois sophomore Abe Souza, ranked No. 41 in the country, and freshman Dennis Nevolo 8-3.

Pukal said playing with a fellow freshman helped him do well.

“I think we communicated pretty well,” he said. “We had good chemistry and were aggressive — I think that’s what won the match.”

USF’s freshmen accounted for six of the 11 wins over FAMU.

“Overall, I think we competed well,” Barr said. “This is where I wanted to be to see how much more work we had to do to get into the top 20. It gives our guys good preparation to know what to look for battle-wise and level of play.”