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Pair of Showdowns in Tallahassee

by Kevin Ivany

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The wait was long, but the University of Miami men’s tennis team returned to action for the first time in 336 days Sunday.

Despite coming up just short in a back and forth match against No. 18 UCF, 4-3, the Hurricanes were excited to be back competing with one another.

“First of all, it was just super exciting to be back out there, competing again,” Miami head coach Aljosa Piric said immediately following Sunday’s match. “We are just thankful for the opportunity to play.

“As far as the match, it was the first match that we had played in almost a year. We didn’t compete as a team last semester and some of the guys were not even able to be here in Miami. So, we literally had guys who we had not even seen play in a match, before Sunday,” Piric continued. “So, given everything this year has held, I am very pleased with the fight and just the overall attitude. It came down to the wire against a very good UCF team. Credit to them, it is hard to come to Miami and beat us here, but they came out and were a little bit better than us down the stretch. So, we have to give them credit. Overall, it is a positive step in the right direction for us.”

Along with five returners, a trio of Hurricanes made their season debuts against the Knights, including transfers Stefan Milicevic and Oren Vasser, along with freshman Patrick Sebastian.

In addition to the trio of student-athletes making their first appearance in a competitive match sporting orange and green, first-year assistant coach Darragh Glavin made his first appearance on the Neil Schiff Tennis Center’s sidelines.

Looking back on the season opener, Glavin saw the Hurricanes leave it all out on the courts against UCF, but still knows there is room for improvement as the season progresses.

“I saw we can be very competitive and can win at all spots against any team,” Glavin said. “We were a little rusty after a long time away from competition, but all-in-all I think everyone is ready and very excited to be competing.

“It means a lot to be back out there competing after such a long break,” Glavin added. “This is what we train for. To be in a tough battle coming down to the last match, as nerve-racking as it can be, it has been missed. Emotions running high, fans cheering, teammates supporting each other, it was fun to be back out there in a 4-3 battle. It didn’t go our way this time, but it was fun to be back at it and we are looking forward to this weekend.”

As for what is next, Glavin and the Hurricanes will take on Auburn (Saturday, 11 a.m.) and Tulane (Sunday, noon) for a pair of neutral site affairs in Tallahassee, Fla.

Knowing the schedule doesn’t get any easier, Miami took the time this week to fine-tune a few areas on the practice courts in preparation for the pair of high-level showdowns.

“I think we can do very well this season. We competed well against a very tough UCF team,” Glavin said. “Every match is going to be a battle and this will prepare our guys well for what’s ahead. Playing two tough teams this weekend. We have worked hard this week to correct and improve some things from last week and we can’t wait to get another chance to play.”

The Tigers enter the weekend with a 3-3 mark, most recently defeating Florida State, 4-2, snapping the Seminoles 14-match home winning streak.

Meanwhile, the Green Wave enter the match with a 5-2 mark and are led by a pair of ranked singles players, No. 40 Hamish Stewart and No. 53 Ewan Moore.

Overall, with ACC competition just a week away, the Hurricanes are looking forward to what is to come.

“I’m very excited about this team and what we can achieve this year,” Glavin said. “We are all very grateful to be out there and enjoying competing again. We all know how quickly it can be taken away, so we are going to enjoy every day we have and keep working hard to be better each day and see what happens.”