USTA Section: Florida
Haruka Abe - Freshman
Victor Espinoza - Junior
Youssef Fassi-Fehri - Graduate
Tracy Mare - Junior
Anila Rao - Sophomore
Jeronimo Simonovis-Armas - Junior
USTA.com: When did you discover that you had the talent to win as a team?
We’ve always known we have great team, but we feel like this year was the year when we were able to finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together and the results started to go our way. There are six events in our section besides state championships. In the past, UCF and UF would split all of them – however, this year we were able to give them a run for their money and actually brought back home 2 titles with us at the University of Miami IBIS Open and the South Florida Bullrun!
USTA.com: How does your team unwind after a day of matches?
Easy: A nice dinner and then hitting the hot tub! It has become a tradition for us to go to the hotel jacuzzi after a long day of matches. After that, we just hang out in our rooms. When we go to cities like Orlando, or Miami, we enjoy going out and sightseeing, explore the city.
USTA.com: When you qualified, how did you celebrate?
We didn’t really "celebrate," per se: We found out we had qualified during the States Championship because even though we didn’t take a bid right there, we were ahead in the rankings and no one could catch up to us. We were all very excited during the last day of the tournament because we knew we had achieved our goal, we had been working hard all year long to make it to nationals so it was a great feeling. Hugs and high fives were given among us.
USTA.com: Tell us a bit about how your school is unique.
There are several many reasons why the University Of South Florida is such a special and unique place: We are a relatively young school and we’re slowly growing! South Florida is fast becoming one of the top research universities in the country and the Athletics program has become one of the best in the nation with recognized football, basketball, soccer and tennis teams. For us, we take pride in having one of the most beautiful and diverse campuses in the South. It’s a great time to be a Bull.
USTA.com: If you were to list THREE specific things that need to happen in order to win a National Championship, they would be:
1) Stay focused!
2) Stick to the lineup: We’re known for constantly changing our lineups. We never stick to the same lineup, but we have to come to the realization that when we do, great things happen!
3) Work together as a team!
USTA.com: How do you exhibit school spirit?
By being loud! We really enjoy showing support to our fellow team members during matches - we're constantly reminding them that there is an entire team that supports them and has their backs. Tennis can be a frustrating sport because you’re out there by yourself or with your doubles partner, so sometimes it can be very helpful to know that you’re not alone in it.
USTA.com: Share with us a funny story about your team or team member(s).
I don’t know if this is a funny story, but it’s definitely a good one! For this year’s University of Miami Open we booked rooms in a little hotel in the beach area. Nothing too fancy, just a simple hotel at the beach so we could enjoy it after the matches. When we got there, they were apparently sold out and had overbooked the place, so they sent us to a different property of the same hotel group. Little did we know that it was the TRUMP International Beach Resort in Bal Harbour. Needless to say, it was an awesome weekend that concluded with us winning the event!
USTA.com: Share with us an uplifting story about your team or team member(s).
I think this year in general was very uplifting. We have the same roster from last year for the most part - however, we weren’t able to capitalize despite all the talent and opportunities we had during the 2010-2011 season. An example of that would be this year at States, when we had our top four guys missing: We won all of our matches during the round robin stage, except one against UF "B" team where they beat us really bad. From there we managed to make it to the gold draw, and unfortunately, we drew them in the first round again. Our team got together and had a talk, kept the same roster but changed the lineup, and we actually ended up beating them. Then we won two more to make it to the semifinals, so it was a great and positive experience for us.