In Bryan Shelton’s first year as Florida’s coach last season, the Gators failed to advance to the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship match.
After opening the tournament with a 4-0 win over South Carolina, No. 3 seed UF fell to No. 2 seed Tennessee 4-2 in the conference semifinals on April 20, 2013.
But with SEC Tournament action approaching Friday in Nashville, Tenn., No. 4 seed Florida hopes to benefit from last year’s experience and advance further than last season.
The Gators have not won the SEC Tournament since 2011, when former coach Andy Jackson was at the helm.
In 2012, the team fell in the conference quarterfinals to Ole Miss in a 4-1 upset.
Florida hopes to buck that trend this weekend. Shelton will look to seniors Mike Alford and Florent Diep to lead the way, but he also expects his younger players to carry some of the weight in the postseason as they have been doing in the regular season.
Shelton was pleased with the play of Alford and Diep this past weekend in a loss to Vanderbilt and a win against Kentucky.
“They came out and played extremely well,” Shelton said.
“They came out and got the job done for us; not only in doubles, but in singles. It’s been fun to see those guys in leadership roles for our team to come through in big moments for us, especially in the SEC.”
He also praised others like No. 92 Elliott Orkin and Maxx Lipman, two freshmen who have played with poise recently.
“Our freshman continue to do well. We’re asking a lot of them every week,” Shelton said. “They’re really having to step up here in their first year for the Gators.”
Teamwork between the younger and older players is also evident in the rankings, with Orkin and sophomore Gordon Watson being ranked No. 19 in doubles as well as senior Diep and sophomore Watson ranking No. 29.
After it leaves for Nashville on Wednesday, Florida will benefit from its bye and have a chance to see its upcoming opponent in action.
Friday, the Gators will take on the winner of the match between No. 5 seed Mississippi State and either No. 12 seed Arkansas or 13-seed LSU in the quarterfinals.
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