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First-year coach, young Gators eager to begin 2013 season

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Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 12:00 am

A team with five upperclassmen and a veteran coach typically relies on experience to carry it through the season.

But for the Gators men’s tennis team, that won’t be the case.

Coach Bryan Shelton and his Florida squad will rely on youth in 2013.

Florida finished the individual fall season last weekend at the Three Oaks Shootout in Fort Myers. The team begins its spring season with a matchup against Miami on Saturday at Linder Stadium.

Shelton has one freshman, one redshirt freshman, three juniors and two seniors.

Two of the three juniors — Florent Diep and Stephane Piro — have limited experience at the college level.

Diep played 34 matches professionally before enrolling at UF in January 2012.

"Diep, who is playing probably the best of anyone on our team in the fall, is only in his second year here although he is a junior," Shelton said.

The Frenchman put together an impressive 13-6 individual record in his first fall season. He also had success in doubles, going 10-3 when teamed up with fellow junior Michael Alford.

Piro, on the other hand, made his college debut last weekend, winning all three of his individual matches.

"It was great to see him handle it well and just to continue to play and compete and make adjustments where he needed to," Shelton said.

In Shelton’s case, he is learning, too. He left his coaching position with the women’s team at Georgia Tech to take over the men’s program at Florida in June. While adjusting to his new job at UF, Shelton has worked on growing the program and instilling his philosophy with his new players.

"Developing is more than helping the guys on their forehand or backhand or serve, but it’s really trying to instill good habits," Shelton said. "Doing things the right way."

Shelton said he and his coaching staff have come across many challenges in their first year already but have embraced the obstacles.

"Every decision made is with the best interest in mind," Shelton said.

Knowing he will have to overcome some inexperience this season, Shelton wouldn’t have it any other way.

"I’m proud to be here, proud to be a Gator," Shelton said.

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