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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Whitney Benik can't wait to see some new faces.

The senior and the rest of the UF women's tennis team have not played a dual-match in two weeks.

One of the matches was canceled due to rain, and the other was rescheduled after the Gators' opponents suffered from illnesses.

Whatever the reason for the postponements, playing no matches means participating in more practices, something Benik would like to be done with.

"After four years of practicing, I never thought I'd like matches so much," she said. "I wish we had a match every day."

Benik will get her wish as the No. 5 Gators (2-0) host Troy on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The Trojans were added to the schedule on Tuesday after South Alabama and UF were unable to find a replacement date for their postponed match.

UF coach Roland Thornqvist said that though the players are frustrated from not playing, they are ready to go against Troy.

"They're great fighters," he said of the Trojans. "So if we're not sharp, they're certainly going to present a problem."

Despite the late notice and the long layoff between matches, Benik said neither herself nor the team should have any problems.

"I think if I just play the way I've been playing the last couple of weeks (in practice), I should be fine," she said.

The Gators will make a change on the doubles courts involving the senior.

Benik will pair up with fellow senior Lolita Frangulyan for the first time in a dual-match since the two were freshmen.

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During that season, the duo reached a career-high No. 3 national doubles ranking and also captured the ITA All-American doubles title.

"I get a real sense of urgency from both of them," Thornqvist said. "I think they feel that we have a good team, and that we have a chance to have a special team even though we're young, and that they are a big reason as to why we're going to be a pretty tough team."

Thornqvist added that their experience will be especially important when Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournament play roll around.

"It's going to be vital," he said. "They need to be in a leadership position for us to be the best we can be."

Benik is aware of what's at stake for UF this season, and she's embracing her role as a leader on the team.

"I think the girls look up to me a little bit just because I've been around the block four years," she said. "I'm here if they need me. … This is by far the best team I've been on. I think we definitely could go all the way. We just have to do it."

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