By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, JAN. 16, 2014 – No. 70 USF heads into the spring season as one of three American Athletic Conference programs ranked in the ITA preseason poll and the Bulls have started their run in stride.
“These guys are excited, they’re working hard and they took care of the break,” head coach Matt Hill said. “That was one of our goals was to win the holiday break, not waste any time and come back sharp. They did that and we’re not playing catch-up right now. We’re getting better and that’s huge this time of year.”
Getting ahead of the game will give the Bulls a boost when they begin the spring season Friday at the Illini Open in Fort Myers, Fla. USF will face off against players from No. 15 Florida and Illinois at the weekend event.
“We’re playing two of the best teams in the country. Those teams do the same things. They’re not coming back trying to play catch-up either,” Hill said. “It will be good competition this weekend to see where we’re at. It will be good for them to expose us in areas we need to clean up before we really get going.”
USF picked up a ton of momentum heading into the holiday break with a lineup that features young talent and proven veterans. Freshman Sasha Gozun made the singles final at the USTA/ITA Southeastern Regional, while the No. 16 doubles team of junior Oliver Pramming and sophomore Ignacio Gonzalez-Muniz made the title match in their draw. Freshmen Paul Polarczyk and Vadym Kalyuzhnny won the doubles consolation draw as well.
The Bulls wrapped up the fall season in impressive fashion when Gozun (now ranked 100th in singles), Pramming and Kalyuzhnny each picked up pro points at the IMG Academy $10K Futures tournament in Bradenton, Fla.
“Towards the end of the fall we really started putting it together. Each guy started getting better and better,” Hill said.
USF’s lineup will include more top-level talent this spring with sophomores Roberto Cid and Finn Meinecke making their debuts this weekend. Cid, 20, is from the Dominican Republic and was ranked as highly as No. 986 on the ATP Tour and was a top-100 player at the junior level. Meinecke, 21, ranked as highly at No. 1,355 on the ATP Tour and the Hamburg, Germany native was ranked in the top 100 in his country.
“It was great to get this event before we start playing dual matches to get them settled and comfortable, although these guys aren’t young to the sport of tennis. They’re experienced players,” Hill said.
USF’s spring continues Friday, Jan. 24 at home against Florida Atlantic at 2 p.m. Fans can attend matches for free all regular season at the USF Varsity Courts and stay updated on the team on Twitter @USFBullsMTennis.