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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Young M-tennis squad opens season at home

    Expectations run high this spring for the Arizona men’s tennis team, which is returning a strong core of players who made the jump from unranked to among the top 50 in the nation last year. Three Arizona players were ranked individually in the top 100 in the fall, a first in program history.

    The Wildcats will face NAU at the Robson Tennis Center today at 1 p.m., followed by Nevada on Sunday at 11 a.m. in another home match.

    Tad Berkowitz, who is entering his fourth year as head coach, looks to last spring season as well as the team’s individual performances in the fall as an indication of his players’ potential.

    “”Hopefully we can make it to the Sweet 16 this year,”” he said.

    Berkowitz did acknowledge that the team will have its hands full with its Pacific 10 Conference slate.

    “”UCLA, USC are both teams that are top 8 in the country. Stanford is a top-10 team. Those are the three that are probably on top of the conference right now,”” Berkowitz said. “”We’re looking to pick one of those teams off.””

    But Arizona, with an arsenal of ranked players, could have what it takes to pull the upset against one of those three California powerhouse programs.

    “”I think we have a lot of solid players on the team. … We’re working together very well,”” said sophomore Jay Goldman. “”I think that if we work hard together and keep it the way we’re going, we could have a very successful season.””

    Arizona is also bolstered by its two freshmen: Ola Bakke and Jason Zafiros. The Wildcats also added a former rival to their roster this year with Andres Arango, a transfer from ASU.

    “”He’s really going to help us out – brings a lot of experience, had great success last year. He knows what it’s like to play with our rigorous schedule,”” Berkowitz said of Arango.

    Goldman is looking forward to this weekend’s matches as an opportunity for the team’s new players to acquaint themselves with the concept of playing for the team rather than solely for individual rankings, as in the fall.

    Berkowitz added: “”Basically we’ve got a young team. We have a lot of potential I think, but we have one senior on the team. I wouldn’t call it a weakness, but they’ll need to grow up fast.””

    At least Berkowitz sees promising signs in the pair of freshmen. He said Zafiros is a “”little bully – a very fiery, competitive guy. He’s going to bring a lot of feistiness onto the court every day.”” Berkowitz added that Bakke can contribute more in terms of “”a power game.””

    In spite of the challenges implicit in the Pac-10, Berkowitz places a great deal of confidence in the spirit of his players.

    “”Our guys are match-tough guys. They’re guys that want to be in the pressure spots. I think these guys are clutch guys,”” he said. “”They want to win it for the team.””

    While NAU and Nevada likely aren’t on the same level as some of the Pac-10 teams, that doesn’t mean Berkowitz and his team will take either match for granted.

    “”Men’s college tennis is very deep. No matter who you play, it’s going to be tough and our guys know that,”” Berkowitz said. “”It’s important to stay positive and stay tough. That’s kind of the main thing for me. Go out there and handle themselves with class, handle themselves professionally, combined with fighting their hearts out.””

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