After a four-match road trip, the No. 10 Florida men’s tennis team finally returns home on Friday for the final match of the regular season.
The Gators (14-8, 8-3 SEC) will take on Alabama (16-9, 2-8 SEC) for Senior Day at 5 p.m. at the Ring Tennis Complex.
Coach Bryan Shelton said that every player on the team knows they must win this one for the seniors.
“We’ve got three great (seniors) that we’ll be losing after this season,” Shelton said. “They’ve meant a lot to our program, and we want them to go out with a bang.”
Seniors Joshua Wardell, Jordan Belga and Chase Perez-Blanco have all been leaders of the team both on and off the court and will be honored before Friday’s match.
The team knows it must finish the regular season strong, but the Crimson Tide will present no small task. While the team has lost four of its last five matches, Alabama still has lots of talent on its roster.
In doubles, the Crimson Tide is led by the duo of junior Mazen Osama and sophomore Edson Ortiz who have gone from unranked to No. 51 in two weeks. The pair has won two doubles matches in a row and was key in Alabama’s big win over Georgia on April 6 after it helped clinch the doubles point.
Alabama also possesses a solid lineup in singles with No. 26 Osama at the forefront.
UF struggled in singles against Texas A&M on April 6 but recovered for a dominant team performance against LSU two days later.
Freshman Andy Andrade’s impressive play in singles has been a significant reason why his team maintained decent form. After he struggled throughout March, at one point even being left out of the lineup for multiple matches, the freshman bounced back in a pivotal time of the season.
“I started practicing with more confidence,” Andrade said. “Practice makes you more confident, and it is why I am playing much better.”
After Friday’s match, the Gators will have almost two weeks off before beginning the SEC Tournament on April 26 in Tuscaloosa.