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Gators hang on to top Bulls

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 13, 2002

GAINESVILLE -- It was exactly the dogfight both coaches predicted, with the outcome decided by a freshman, a sophomore and debilitating cramps.

The Florida men's tennis team, ranked No. 12 in the Collegiate Tennis poll, outlasted South Florida 4-3 to win in the round of 32 at the NCAA men's tennis championships Sunday.

The Gators (18-6) face UCLA in the round of 16 Saturday in College Station, Texas. Host UCLA beat San Diego State 4-1.

"When you work as hard as I'm sure South Florida did all year, you've got to really feel for them," UF coach Andy Jackson said. "But I'm proud of our guys. I felt like we earned it, but we also caught some breaks."

A big break.

Florida led 3-1 after winning the doubles point and two singles matches, but USF (18-5) rallied to tie the match.

The outcome rested on No. 1 singles between UF freshman Hamid Mirzadeh and USF sophomore Martin Wetzel.

But with a one-set lead and leading 3-1 in the second, Wetzel developed severe cramps. He was penalized one point after a time violation during an injury timeout, and from there, Hamid took advantage of the situation. By the end, Wetzel was barely able to move around the court.

"He developed cramps in his upper body, then the lower body and he was drinking a lot of water and Gatorade, but it just wasn't enough as hot as it was out there," USF coach Don Barr said. "It was a very, very good match. I'm very proud of my guys. They fought their hearts out. ... I don't call them losers. When you go out and battle like they did, they are winners, too, in my book."

After the Gators took a 3-1 lead, Jorge Escallon defeated Ross Greenstein 6-2, 6-3 and Paco Antelo beat Eleazar Magallan 6-3, 6-4 to pull the Bulls even.

Wetzel's second set lead quickly vanished once the cramps set in. Mirzadeh rallied to win the set 6-3. With Wetzel struggling, Mirzadeh capitalized, winning the match 6-7 (7-4), 6-3, 6-2.

"I tried to play consistent, don't go for winners, just play smart," said Mirzadeh, adding he was under pressure with the match resting on him. "I've been working on my fitness since I got here in August. This is the first time I outfitnessed somebody."

Jackson had nothing but praise for the first-year player.

"When you throw a freshman up at No. 1, your hope is that at the end of the year, he isn't a freshman," Jackson said. " ... He kept improving all season and today he sent us to Texas."

BASEBALL: Jason Perry had two homers and six RBIs as host Georgia Tech beat Miami 16-8. ... Host USF stranded 11, including four on third base, in a 9-8 loss to Tulane. ... Nick Rogers drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth to give host Florida State a 6-5 win over Maryland. ... Matt Heath hit a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth to help visiting LSU beat Florida 8-5.

SOFTBALL: The 48-team field for the NCAA championships is set. FSU hosts one of eight regions starting Thursday; it and Florida Atlantic, in the same region, were the only state schools to get bids. ... Jessica Sallinger struck out 10 to lead Georgia Tech over North Carolina 6-2 in Tallahassee for its first ACC title. FSU's Brandi Stuart and Jessica van der Linden were named all-tournament. ... Britni Sneed got her 22nd shutout of the season to lead top seed LSU over Georgia 1-0 for the SEC title in Chattanooga, Tenn. ... Top seed and host Barry beat Valdosta State 1-0 to win the Division II South Region. Tampa's Kristen Law and Mikki Stark and Saint Leo's Sabrina Price were named to the all-region team.

BASKETBALL: Indiana coach Mike Davis is expected to sign a six-year deal today that will pay him $800,000 a year for the first three years.

TRACK AND FIELD: UF's Matt Vincent (7 feet, 31/4 inches) won the high jump at the men's SEC outdoor meet in Starkville, Miss.; Tennessee won the team event with the Gators third. For the UF women, Megan Westfall (12-8) won the pole vault and Candice Scott (54-21/2) the shot put. South Carolina won; UF was third.

ELSEWHERE: Host West Chester, Pa., beat Stonehill 11-6 for the women's Division II lacrosse title. ... Stanford beat UCLA 8-4 in Los Angeles to win the women's water polo title.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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