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Sunday, June 16, 2024

The No. 14 UF men's tennis team will face a tough early-season test on Tuesday when it travels to Miami to take on the No. 36 Hurricanes.

The matchup will be the first of two road matches this week for the young squad, which is coming off a 7-0 win against Furman on Sunday.

UF coach Andy Jackson said things will not be as easy when the team faces its in-state rival on the road, especially when fielding a team with so little experience.

"The thing that I'm very well aware of is that the step up for five freshmen is huge going to Miami," he said.

The Gators shut out the Hurricanes last year in Gainesville, and they know Miami would like to enact revenge on its archrival.

"Miami is one of our two biggest natural rivalries," said Jackson, who is 27-1 in six seasons against in-state opponents. "They hate us. It's the biggest match of the year for them. It's going to be a huge challenge for us, especially since we've got five guys who are playing in their second dual match."

While the match is good for the rivalry itself, Jackson said the more important result might be that the winner gets the inside track to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in May.

Last year, UF lost to Florida State and consequently had to travel to Tallahassee later that year for the first two rounds. Jackson hopes his team can avoid that same scenario with Miami.

"It's a big match because of how it will impact who will get to host," Jackson said. "For me and for our team, I think it's a lot more incentive. It's going to be a big challenge for us."

Senior Greg Ouellette, coming off a 7-6 (4), 7-5 victory on Sunday, will lead the Gators on the No. 1 court. He has never lost to Miami, so he knows what it will take to pull out a victory.

"They've got a really good team," Ouellette said. "It will be a good challenge for me and especially the team."

Ouellette said that with so many freshmen on the team, it's tough for him to gauge how they will respond to each match.

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"You don't know what to expect," he said. "They're really talented. We have one of the most talented teams I've been on, but it's tough to have that confidence because you haven't seen them do it yet. But I feel like once they sink their teeth into it, they'll definitely start picking it up."

As for Ouellette's own expectations on Tuesday's match and the rest of the season:

"It's my last year," he said. "I want to try to make the most of it. I love being able to play (No.) 1 and have the crowd behind me. It's really a treat."

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