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Busy weekend to test Bulls' winning streak

Don Barr is about to find out how good his USF men's tennis team really is.

The longtime Bulls coach has watched his team go up (three consecutive wins to start the year), go down (two losses in three matches in mid-February) and bounce back up with an unbeaten March.

Even more impressive is that his team has done it with a lineup dominated by youth.

Freshmen Martin Wetzel, Paco Antelo and Max Dockhorn have played at various positions this season, but recently emerged as three of the Bulls' top singles players. Not coincidentally, the Bulls have won six consecutive matches and are boasting a 10-2 record and a No. 35 national ranking.

Those numbers will be put to the test this weekend as the Bulls travel today to face Florida in Gainesville before heading to Oxford, Miss., to play Ole Miss on Sunday.

The Gators, ranked 29th by the ITA, are coming off an ugly home shutout loss to No. 11 Texas. The Gators dropped all nine matches to the Longhorns to drop to 6-8 on the year. Playing without No. 1 Nathan Overholser, the Gators were forced to shuffle their singles and doubles lineups.

Meanwhile, No. 17 Mississippi is coming off a 4-2 rain-shortened win against Indiana to improve to 9-3 on the year.

"Those are quality SEC teams," Barr said. "We'll see how we match up."

The Bulls, who upset a ranked opponent (North Carolina) earlier this year, will counter with some impressive numbers of their own.

Antelo, who played at the No. 1 singles position in USF's 5-2 victory against Memphis on March 11, is 13-7 on the season and has combined with Wetzel and Dockhorn to post a collective 41-14 mark this year.

Along with team veterans Boris Babic, Eric Gildhorn, Nadim Nassar, Jit Shah and Jorge Escallon, the Bulls have spent most of this month overcoming obstacles while managing to play well.

A 6-1 win against Alabama-Birmingham on March 9 highlighted that as the Bulls' readjusted lineup shined.

"That was a great win for us," Barr said. "We were without some regular players with Martin Wetzel out with a leg muscle injury and Jit Shah had the flu. Nadim Nassar played with an injured shoulder and pulled off a win. The team rallied together and got a great win."

In their perfect month so far, the Bulls have outscored opponents 37-5 with wins against Harvard, Old Dominion, Michigan State, Tennessee-Martin, UAB and Memphis. The Bulls shut out opponents twice during the streak and limited the opposition to a single point in three of those matches.

In fact, the only thing that has been able to stop the Bulls is the weather as the March 4 home match against Florida Atlantic was rained out and rescheduled for April 6.

With Wetzel out after sustaining his leg injury in doubles play against Michigan State, Antelo has played at the top spot in three of the last four matches, winning all of them. Antelo won at the No. 2 spot against Tennessee-Martin as Wetzel returned to play one match before sitting out the next two. He is expected to return to action this weekend.

Dockhorn, meanwhile, has been solid in the No. 4 spot, running his record to 14-3.

The Bulls return home to host Miami on March 24 and DePaul on March 28. USF will travel to New Orleans next month for the Conference USA tournament.