Bulls hit stride as regular season ends

All the problems USF has faced this season might be coming to an end at the right time — just before the Bulls host the Big East Championships this week.

That will have to wait a couple more days, though, as the South Florida men’s tennis team ends its regular season, hosting Marquette at 2 p.m. today at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts.

After beginning the season with five new players, USF has struggled to find consistent doubles partnerships because of injuries.

Coach Don Barr has rotated seven doubles teams in the No. 3 position this season. USF found its pair with freshmen Wael Kilani and Yannick Yoshizawa, during USF’s five-match winning streak at home.

Junior Thomas Estrada has missed the last two matches on the road with an injured wrist. Estrada received a cortisone shot a week ago. His MRI and X-ray reports were normal, but tendonitis is expected.

“My wrist is getting better,” Estrada said. “I’m still feeling some pain, but it’s not as bad as it was. I’ve been doing rehab and it’s strengthened my wrist, and I’ve been practicing since Wednesday.”

Barr said he is unsure if Estrada will play today.

The Bulls have returned previously injured players. Sophomore Lucas Jovita, the No. 75 singles player in the nation, is back after a wrist injury, and sophomore Romain Deridder has substituted for Estrada after returning from a strained rotator cuff.

USF’s matchup with the Golden Eagles will be the final home regular season match for senior Mahmoud Hamed, who said it’s surreal that his college tennis career will be over soon.

“It feels weird,” he said. “I’m just trying to make the best of it and play the best matches I can.”

Hamed said the team is focused on bouncing back from two straight losses. The Bulls fell 4-1 to Louisville on April 4 and 4-3 to Virginia Commonwealth in Virginia on April 5.

“I think everyone wants to make up for the last two matches,” he said. “They want to do a better performance especially in the Big East, so this is going to set the tone for what is going to come.”

USF hosts the Big East championships Thursday through Sunday. The Big East seeds will be decided today at 1 p.m. The Bulls hold a 10-8 season record and the Golden Eagles hold a 16-6 record.

“(Marquette) will probably be seeded four or five in the tournament, so they’re going to be right underneath us in the seeding unless we lose to them, and they could possibly go above us,” Barr said. “So they’re going to be hungry and come after us.”