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Bulls split two matches, battle through injuries

USF men’s tennis coach Don Barr is concerned about getting his team healthy before the Big East championships in two weeks.

Battling injuries, the Bulls defeated No. 67 New Mexico State 4-3 on Thursday at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts, but fell to their second conference opponent, No. 27 Notre Dame, 6-1 on Sunday in Indiana.

“Lucas (Jovita) is a little banged up, which is hurting us,” Barr said. “We need to get healthy, especially by Big East time.”

Sophomore Jovita injured his wrists and was unable to play in two matches. Although MRI reports came back normal, Jovita practices only two days a week.

The No. 70 singles player did not let his injury affect his play against New Mexico State, however, clinching the Bulls’ victory by defeating Jim Brovloau 7-6 and 6-4.

“When I’m playing, I don’t feel (pain) because there are a lot of emotions,” Jovita said.

Jovita fell to Notre Dame’s Brett Helgeson, ranked No. 22 in singles, 7-6,7-3 and 6-2.

“Lucas (Jovita) is a warrior. He’s never going to shut down,” Barr said. “All he knows is to try as hard as he can until he dies on the court. That’s (Jovita), and that’s what makes him so tough and so good.”

The Bulls’ No. 2 player, freshman Wael Kilani, substitutes for Jovita in the No. 1 position.

Kilani won USF’s only singles victory at Notre Dame, defeating Stephen Havens 7-5 and 6-0. Kilani has won eight consecutive matches and holds the Bulls’ best dual-singles record at 13-3.

“Kilani has stepped up and learned to do a little bit more in his matches,” Barr said. “He’s also helped us in doubles.”

Freshman Yannick Yoshizawa replaced freshman Romain Deridder as Kilani’s doubles partner, combining for a 4-2 record. Deridder has a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

The Bulls played indoors for the first time this year against Notre Dame. Barr said that could have been a factor.

“It was very hard for the team to play indoors,” Kilani said. “The court was very flat.”

Barr said he’s looking forward to the Big East championships, which will be held at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts, but he’s hoping the team will be healthy enough.

“It was a little bit different not playing outside so that’s kind of what we’re hoping as we get into the conference and if we play (Notre Dame),” Barr said. “It will be a different story when we go outside.”