With his teammates watching anxiously from one court away, Justin Roberts stepped back as a return hit from UCF’s Danny Kerznerman went too long, giving Roberts the win, and top-seeded USF its fourth straight conference title.
Roberts was immediately embraced by his teammates, jumping up and down in a mixture of relief and celebration.
Over the weekend, both the USF men’s and women’s tennis teams brought home an AAC title, going a combined 7-0 in their respective conference tournaments at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.
After losing the doubles point to start the match, USF (19-8) answered back with four straight singles wins, securing the conference title.
“I couldn’t be any happier for the guys, they work hard every day and really bring it,” men’s coach Ashley Fisher said after the win. “I was so impressed with how they continued to fight even after UCF took the doubles point.”
UCF was the only conference opponent the Bulls had lost to throughout the season, making the win over the Knights in the championship match even sweeter.
“It’s just amazing to have four (championships) in a row,” said USF senior Sasha Gozun. “There was even more motivation (playing against UCF), so I just did my best, left in all on the court in my last match as a Bull, and I came out on top.”
Gozun was named the most outstanding player of the tournament, and along with fellow senior Vadym Kalyuzhnyy, has won the American every season in his four-year career as a Bull.
“USF wasn’t on the map four years ago,” Fisher said. “The honors are now on me to carry on that winning tradition.”
A day earlier, USF women’s tennis secured its second AAC championship in Cinderella style.
“We’ve been struggling the whole semester, so just to get this conference win is unreal,” USF sophomore Nicole Dzenga said after the win on Saturday.
Entering the tournament as the No. 7 seed, USF faced an uphill battle to the conference title.
However, with each win, hope grew for the Bulls, who capped off their run with a 4-2 victory over Tulsa on Saturday afternoon, making USF the lowest seed to ever win the women’s tennis AAC title.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” coach Cristina Moros said. “This is just a cumulation of all of the toughness and adversity we’ve faced. We battled through it and came out the winner today.”
Like the men, the women’s victory over No. 1 Tulsa was a redemption match, having lost to the Golden Hurricane earlier in the season.
In its journey to face the Golden Hurricane, USF secured wins over the conference’s No. 10, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds.
With two conference title trophies on their way down I-4 to USF, both the men’s and women’s teams secured automatic bids into the national tournament.
The NCAA tournaments for both men’s and women’s will be played concurrently from May 18 to May 29, 2017 in Athens, Georgia at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.