Men's Tennis Looking Forward to Spring Campaign

Jan. 4, 2010

By Sarah Bishop

Looking forward to the spring season, UCF head coach Bobby Cashman believes that the time has arrived for the Knights to take the spotlight in Conference USA.

"I am excited for them as a group; we have been waiting patiently for years. We really want it, they really want it, you can tell. They are hungry to prove that they are a viable option."

After five successful tournaments in the fall, the Knights are moving confidently into their spring campaign.

"During the fall, our levels of play picked up once everyone was more comfortable and match ready. The team finished on a positive note which was good for the level of play they faced," noted Cashman.

This year is unique for the Knights; they have an older team. With three seniors and two juniors, depth will be a key role.

"There will always be a teammate there to step up and win," said Cashman.

Senior Johan Beigart returns for his final collegiate campaign after registering an 11-9 mark last spring that included a 7-2 record at the No. 4 spot. Beigart also went 7-1 in doubles competition with Blaze Schwartz.

"He is one of our interchangeable players, making him an asset," noted Cashman. "In Beigart you see unique strengths you do not see in any of the other players."

Two seniors are also returning strong after injuries last spring - Marc Rocafort and Brock Sakey. With Sakey only able to play in two tournaments and Rocafort's arduous season last spring, Cashman has the Knights being extra careful with workouts. Letting them rest when they are tired, trying to prevent injuries, with what they call "prehab."

"Brock is healthy and got a lot of playing time this fall," said Cashman. "Marc is finally serving like he used to - bigger and better, now winning that free point."

After being selected to the All-C-USA Second Team in 2009, Schwartz is ready for the competition ahead. Schwartz led UCF with a 15-6 singles mark, including 9-6 at No. 3 and 5-0 at No. 4, last spring. After his undefeated run with Rocafort in doubles at the USF Invitational in the fall, Cashman is sure that they will be ranked this spring.

"After some inconsistency this fall, Blaze played well in the end," added Cashman. "He has improved on all the things we have been working on."

After sitting out the entire 2009 spring season due to injury, sophomore Claudio Romano worked hard last fall in preparation for the spring.

"Claudio puts a lot more into the game than expected. He is tough on himself, he feels comfortable during play, and has been hitting the ball well," raved Cashman. Last season, Joe Delinks and Eugene Dolgovykh were two key members of the team as freshmen. Delinks recorded six singles wins last spring, and Dolgovykh won two matches at the C-USA shootout. Together the two took the doubles draw title at the FSU Invitational during the fall.

In the fall, freshman Mario Samson was able to compete for the first time. Samson finished the fall campaign with a winning record, taking the singles D crown at the UCF Invitational.

"The younger players will allow me to be able to rest some guys, which we haven't been able to do in the past. They will definitely see playing time," noted Cashman. "As the youngest player, Mario has grown quicker than I thought, not just physically, but he has also matured a lot being around serious players."

With the return of many strong players, the Knights hope to keep up the momentum from the fall campaign and move confidently into the spring. The squad will begin the season at the USF Spring Invitational. After their trip to Tampa, the schedule does not get any easier as the team travels to Gainesville where they will meet No. 11 Florida. The Knights will face eight squads that finished the 2009 campaign ranked among the top-75 teams in the country.

"We have chances with ranked teams throughout the season, some of which we saw in the fall. Now we have to believe we are a good team," said Cashman. "The team will keep it competitive because they care about each other."