UCF Men's Tennis Spring Preview

Jan. 12, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - After completing a strong fall campaign, UCF head coach Bobby Cashman knows that his team has the depth and maturity to make a splash in Conference USA this season.

"The fall campaign showed that we can compete with anyone, but I think we just have to do it on that certain day," said Cashman. "We are older now and a more mature team than the last couple of years. I think that is showing too."

With six members of last year's team returning, Cashman believes that this is one of the deepest squads he has coached during his tenure at UCF.

Senior Tarek Ben Soltane returns for his final collegiate campaign after registering a 12-2 mark last spring that included a 6-0 record at the No. 5 spot. Cashman knows that in order to compete with Ben Soltane, his opponents will constantly need be on the run.

"He has great feet and great hands," noted Cashman. "He is very fast on the court. His forehand is very big and it is his weapon. Tarek plays smart tennis. You are going to have to hit a lot of balls to beat him. He is a consistent player."

Also returning for his senior campaign is Brock Sakey. The Gulf Breeze native completed a 14-7 singles record for the Knights last season. Sakey also registered an 11-7 mark in doubles with partner Johan Beigart.

Competing for four years, Sakey has improved his game every season, and his willingness to make strides on the court is what impresses Cashman the most.

"He is still improving," commented Cashman. "He has gotten better at doubles and improved his backhand ground strokes. A lot of people want to stop getting better, but he has improved every single year."

Providing depth for the team is senior Danny Colon. In limited action last spring, Colon assisted the Knights on a successful season. The Jacksonville native brings consistency and toughness to the court.

For the second consecutive season, Beigart was named to the All-C-USA Second Team in 2008. His ability to continually win matches at the No. 3 spot has been key to the Knights' success The junior has recorded a 15-2 mark at the No. 3 position over the past two seasons. Cashman has seen the progression of Beigart over the past two years, and knows that he possesses many weapons to keep his opponents off balance.

"His strengths are his serve and his backhand," said Cashman. "When he comes to the net he is very effective. He likes to serve and volley. I think that is one of his strong holds."

Joining the Knights this year is Marc Rocafort. The 6-foot-4 junior is a transfer from Middle Tennessee, where he posted a 16-15 singles mark during the 2007-08 season. Rocafort spent three weeks in the national rankings last spring, moving up to 88th on March 4. With his size and experience, Cashman is expecting Rocafort to be a force at the top of the lineup for the Knights.

"Marc is capable of beating anyone in the country if he puts his mind to it," noted Cashman. "This fall he had a good campaign. He will bring confidence to the team, but will also win some singles matches at the top of the lineup, which is huge for us."

Last season, Claudio Romano and Blaze Schwartz were two key members of the team as freshmen. Both players finished the fall campaign with strong records. Romano posted a 5-1 singles mark, and Schwartz collected a 7-2 record, including the flight B title at the C.L. Varner Memorial Invitational.

In the fall season, two freshmen were able to compete for the Knights for the first time. Joe Delinks, a rookie from Massachusetts, completed the fall with a 4-3 singles mark. Delinks also posted an impressive 10-2 record in doubles and advanced to the semifinals of the Southern Intercollegiate Championship with Sakey.

The other rookie to compete this fall was Eugene Dolgovykh. The Palm Coast native completed the fall season with a 7-2 singles mark, including an impressive run at the USF Invitational in which he claimed the flight six crown.

The two freshmen are not the only new members of the squad this year. Assisting Cashman with the team this season is Nick Zieziula. The assistant spent the last three seasons at Buffalo, and also ran his own tennis academy in the area. Zieziula brings a vast knowledge of the game and a calm demeanor to the court.

With the return of several key members from last year's squad, the Knights hope to take the momentum from the fall campaign and turn in a successful season. In the first match of the spring, the team will face a Tulsa squad that is ranked 13th in the nation. After the trip to Oklahoma, the schedule doesn't get any easier as the Knights will take on four schools from the league that are ranked in the top 75. The C-USA Championship at the end of the season will lend an advantage to the squad as it is UCF's first time hosting the event since joining the league.

"I set the schedule to not only compete at the conference championship, but make the NCAA tournament, which allows us a lot of opportunities," said Cashman. "Sometimes you don't have to have the best record to make the tournament; you just have to have some key wins. I think we will do a good job with a deep team, but I will also be able to rest some guys which I think is crucial. I can give some breaks this year that will help in the long haul over the spring."

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.