Bryan Shelton

Coach Bryan Shelton and his team will head to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to face off with Ole Miss in the Round of 16.

The Florida men’s tennis team returns to play after nearly a week off to compete in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament and will meet Ole Miss in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Friday at 7 p.m.

The Gators (18-9, 9-3 SEC) faced Ole Miss (16-12, 3-9 SEC) during the regular season at home on March 23. Florida won 6-1 to move to a 6-1 record all time against the Rebels under coach Bryan Shelton.

UF had a strong first two rounds against South Carolina State and Miami thanks to solid play from all three courts in doubles. Florida did not lose any doubles matches in the first two rounds and is now 17-1 overall and 11-0 at home when it wins the doubles point this season.

Shelton spoke earlier in the week about how the aggression in doubles play, as well as the depth of the lineup in singles, will be the keys to advancing to the next round.

In singles, the underclassmen continue to impress. Freshman Andy Andrade pushed his winning streak to five matches with his match-clinching victory on Saturday against South Carolina State.

Oliver Crawford, another freshman, also played well on Saturday with a dominant 6-1, 6-0 win. Crawford struggled on Sunday against Miami, however, dropping the first set 6-2 and was in a heated second set before the match closed. Crawford expressed that he does not feel any pressure to win on the top court due to the talent in the other five positions.

“I have confidence in every single guy on the team,” Crawford said. “Even if I don’t play well, I know that we will still have a chance to pull it out.”

Florida will see an Ole Miss team that has surprised many during the NCAA Tournament. After they were bounced in the second round of the SEC Tournament, the Rebels traveled to Palo Alto, California, to stun both Duke and No. 4-seeded Stanford and advance to the Round of 16.

Ole Miss has three ranked singles players, including No. 33-ranked Tim Sandkaulen, who won both of his matches in the first two rounds to help his team advance.

Even with the impactful play of Ole Miss, Florida remains optimistic.

“We feel very confident,” Andrade said. “We already took out Ole Miss in the SEC, and I think we have the stronger team.”

Much like the Gators, Ole Miss won on the back of its doubles play. Although the Rebels have two ranked doubles teams on Courts 1 and 2, it was the unranked duo of Fabian Fallert and Finn Reynolds on Court 3 that helped clinch doubles points in both rounds.

“I think (Ole Miss) is playing its best tennis right now,” Shelton said. “It’s just the time you want to peak, and I feel that we’re starting to peak as well.”

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