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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

Pair from Argentina to lead UH into WAC tennis tournament

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

On a University of Hawai'i men's tennis team where the difference between the No. 1 and No. 6 singles player — on the court and in the classroom — can be measured by string gauge, Reginaldo Moralejo and Francisco Brignole still stand out.

The only thing they hate more than playing each other is earning anything other than an "A."

The first dilemma can't be cured; they met at the age of 4 at Sociedad Sportiva — predominantly a tennis club — in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. Their racquets have rarely been more than 10 blocks apart since. Moralejo plays No. 1 for the Rainbows this season, and Brignole No. 4.

The second dilemma has rarely been a problem. Brignole has a 3.96 cumulative grade point average — one "B" in six semesters — and Moralejo is at 3.75.

"I don't think you could ask for better kids.," UH coach Jim Schwitters says. "They have tremendously big hearts, play until there's nothing left of them. And academically, they are really sound."

Hawai'i heads into this weekend's WAC Championship at Tulsa with what might be its deepest team in Schwitters' 36 years. That is not to say it is the most talented. There isn't a guaranteed win in the bunch, but according to Schwitters, the gap from 1 to 6 is "infinitesimal."

"We have to win doubles to do well this week, that's the big thing that's plagued us all year," he says. "If we'd won half our doubles matches we'd have at least 20 wins.

"If we can change that we can do dramatically better. With our singles depth we can play with anyone and count on winning at least three matches."

The Rainbow Warriors (16-10) gave Schwitters — the sport's winningest coach — his 800th victory last month with a 6-1 shellacking of Oklahoma. They have not been out of a match this season and don't expect to be now.

The two guys who grew up watching Gabriela Sabatini have helped nurture that attitude for three years. They came to Manoa when a former UH professor, also from the province of Buenos Aires, pointed them in the right direction. They grew up taking turns beating each other and have both been ranked among Argentina's Top 25.

Moralejo is 13-13 this season — one of only two WAC players with double-digit victories at No. 1. He has bulked up his clay-court game since coming to North America and his tenacity hasn't ebbed since he beat teammate Malino Oda in a 4-hour preseason playoff for the top spot.

Brignole, a counter-puncher with an Agassi-like service return, is 13-7 at No. 4 — second only to Oda's 17-5 at No. 3. Seniors Jorge Gonzalez, Lincoln Leeder and Kai Ohuchi have combined to go 32-14.

"One of the things we like about playing in a team atmosphere is when you get in close matches everybody is cheering for everybody else," Brignole says. "This year especially, we won many matches just because we acted like a team. There wasn't any bright spot in our lineup. We all performed."

SHORT LOBS: The Rainbow Warriors are seeded No. 6 and play No. 3 Rice this morning. ... The Rainbow Wahine are seeded No. 8 and play No. 9 San Jose State this morning for the right to meet No. 1 seed FSU.