The men’s tennis team took the court in Tulsa, Oklahoma looking to pull the biggest upset of the American Athletic Conference tournament by trying to take down No. 1 seeded South Florida.
After competing in doubles, the Owls were unable to take down the Bulls in the first match of the morning, ending their season.
In singles, the Bulls controlled each match to end up sealing the victory. Junior Santiago Canete (6-3, 6-0), sophomore Filip Stipcic (6-0, 6-2) and freshman Stephen Ong (6-2, 6-1) all were dominated by USF. The Bulls took each match in straight sets.
“Although we didn’t win the match, I was happy with how Santiago played at the first flight,” coach Steve Mauro said. “Although he lost the first set 6-3, some of the points could have gone either way and I thought he performed well. [Junior Hicham Belkssir] had a strong first set and I was happy with how he played against his opponent. The both of them stepped up today and I felt that they can compete with the best in the conference. We just weren’t the better team today.”
In doubles, the Owls lost the first two matches with scores of 6-0 and 6-2, respectively. The duos of junior Nicolas Paulus and Belkssir, as well as Canete and sophomore Vineet Naran struggled with the big serving Bulls and couldn’t return balls easily.
“We competed in doubles and we started off strong on a couple of courts,” Mauro said. “They made a lot more shots that we did and they were a lot better doubles team. They had a lot of players with big serves and they got a lot of free points with those types of serves. [USF] is a really strong team.”
The Owls finish the season 15-10 and like the women’s team they also struggled against nationally ranked as well as conference opponents, finishing with a 2-9 record.
“We were able to keep up with [USF] in the first set of most matches,” Paulus said. “Then the pressure was too much for us to handle because they played strong tennis and it was hard to keep up. Losing 4-0 is always disappointing.”
The team will return all players next season except for senior Hernan Vasconez, who missed this season due to injury.
“On certain courts, I know that we can compete with teams in this conference,” Mauro said. “We have to keep putting in the effort and improve our doubles play. We also have to improve our singles play by being more consistent in our volleys and work the point more.”