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Monday, June 24, 2024

The UF men's tennis team couldn't have asked for a better weekend.

Facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, including 16 matches against ranked opponents, the No. 19 Gators dispelled of two ranked in-state foes Friday and Saturday at home.

But neither match was easy.

UF defeated archrival No. 14 Florida State on Saturday, 5-2, in a match that was a couple of points from swinging in the Seminoles' favor.

FSU seemed to set the tone early when they swept the Gators off the doubles courts (8-2, 8-5, 8-5), and UF was unable to break serve late in the sets to close in on the Seminoles.

Then Gators coach Andy Jackson addressed his players during the break between doubles and singles matches.

"I felt like [FSU] played very well in the doubles, and I also felt like there was a little bit of head hanging on our part," Jackson said. "And we just said, 'OK, let's play but let's not drop our heads if we get behind,' and obviously [UF] responded in the way that tough guys do."

The Gators raced out to early leads on the singles courts, winning the first set in five of six matches.

Senior Nestor Briceno played in doubles but didn't play in singles because of a stomach virus, Jackson said. The lineup change forced UF to play a fifth freshman, Erik Corace, in singles.

However, the adjustment didn't hurt the Gators.

"We played [senior] Greg Ouellette and five freshmen and beat one of the better teams in the country," Jackson said.

Freshmen Johnny Hamui, Alex Lacroix and Tyler Hochwalt were able to close out their matches in straight sets and give their team a 3-2 lead heading to the final two courts, which featured Ouellette and freshman Jeff Dadamo.

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Dadamo cruised through his first set 6-2 but dropped the second set 3-6. He then broke his opponent 6-4 to clinch the match for UF.

"I was a little nervous going into the match," Dadamo said. "I got a little tight when it came to close it out. But keep playing, and good things will happen."

Ouellette was able to finish off his opponent in a second-set tiebreak, 6-3, 7-6 (5), to complete singles play.

On Friday, UF knocked off No. 57 South Florida 4-3.

The Gators swept the doubles courts but struggled in singles.

Dadamo again clinched the match for UF, and two of USF's singles wins came after the match had been decided. Ouellette and Hamui also picked up straight-set wins.

The road only gets tougher for UF with its next two matches coming against No. 12 Illinois and No. 21 Pepperdine, both at home.

After the match against FSU, Jackson addressed his team once again.

"I told them, 'I think we're probably about 50 percent as good as we could be by the end of the year,'" he said. "We got a long way to go, but we're on the right path."

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