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Wednesday November 15, 2000

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Men's tennis concludes fall season with loss

By Lindsey Manroel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Niskala drops match in ITA Region South

After battling in tough match after tough match, the Arizona men's tennis team could not hold its own in the most prestigious tournament of the fall season - ITA Region Eight South Tournament.

Despite the sunny weather in Malibu, Calif., the UA squad was not able to advance to the finals, placing only one UA player in the semifinals of consolation play.

Wildcat junior Jari Niskala, UA's top competitor, was defeated by Mirua Duranovic of ASU, 6-4, 7-5.

Although the loss came as a disappointment, Niskala was pleased with his overall performance against a tough roster of competition.

"I think that I played pretty well," Niskala said. "I took advantage of a good draw and didn't lose any matches that I should have won. I had a close match and had an opportunity to win. I just wasn't able to pull through."

UA assistant head coach Bob Helmig said that a lack of mental toughness helped lead to the Wildcats' demise.

"The missing piece to the puzzle was their mental toughness," he said. "The difference between winning and losing was not only in points here and there, but mental toughness. That is what keeps you through the match and gets you through critical times."

"I think our guys wanted the win and success. When things weren't going as planned, I felt that at times our players let that affect them too much and their emotions got the better side of them."

The Wildcats, who wrapped up their fall season, will head into the spring season attempting to improve.

Arizona - currently ranked No. 55 in the country - will take the lessons learned from this past weekend's tournament in the Jerry's Desert Invitational in January.

"I think that they know that they can play better tennis," Helmig said. "It's just a matter of them being more steady, focused, mentally tough, and have more trust in their game."

Although the squad acknowledges the improvements that must be made if Arizona is going to compete with the top program in NCAA tennis, Helmig said the each player has brought a strong sense of unity to the team.

"The team unity and chemistry that has been created in the fall creates a sense of leadership with each player for each other," Helmig said. "We're definitely capable of doing much better in the spring."