There will be no shortage of storylines when the South Florida men’s tennis team plays No. 7 Florida on Friday in Gainesville. These teams know each other well.
Prior to attending USF, freshman Mark Oljaca played Florida’s Joseph Burkhardt, Jeff Dadamo, Johnny Hamui and Erik Corace in national junior tournaments.
“We know what to expect, they know what to expect, and it’s going to be a battle,” Oljaca said. “There’s going to be emotions — maybe some tempers, too.”
USF freshman Romain Deridder is also familiar with Florida: he knows the Gator’s Alex Lacroix and Antoine Benneteau from living in France.
The Bulls, ranked No. 37 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, have lost to the Gators for three straight years.
“If we win, it will be the biggest this season,” said junior Thomas Estrada. “It will make us believe that we can win the Big East tournament.”
Though Florida outranks the Bulls, the Gators hold them to a high standard.
Coach Don Barr said former Florida tennis player Jeff Morrison told him that he found it challenging to play USF.
Morrison won a National Championship in singles in 1999 at USF and plays professionally.
“That put a smile on my face to know that we put that fear in,” Barr said. “They know that we we’re bringing our A game, and that’s what we need to do this week.”
Florida has had its share of tough competition this season. The Gators competed at the National Indoor Championships (NIC) in Chicago last weekend and went 1-2.
The Bulls missed the opportunity to advance to the NIC after a loss to No. 34 Texas Christian University at the Indoor Regional Tournament two weeks ago in Texas.
“The SEC is a very tough conference that they play in,” Barr said. “I’m trying to make our schedule as tough as their conference. If we would have done a better job with TCU, we might have gone on to the Indoor also. I think we’re making the rights steps toward that direction.”
The Bulls are anticipating a large turnout for the Gators.
“They have a thousand people just screaming at you, supporting them,” Estrada said. “It’s kind of hard, but at the same time you just feel that you won’t let the team down and ‘Let’s shut up all these guys.'”
If the Bulls win, Oljaca said it would be a great personal accomplishment.
“It’s a big deal, because I know all those guys,” he said. “We talk, we see each other over the summer. It’s bragging rights.”