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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The UF women's tennis team will close out its regular-season homestand and two seniors' home careers with two matches this weekend.

Whitney Benik and Lolita Frangulyan will celebrate their time at UF on Sunday at 1 p.m. against No. 27 LSU, but before that they must face a red-hot Arkansas team on Friday at 5 p.m.

The seniors will likely play at home once more for the NCAA first and second rounds, but these home matches are important for their team to maintain control of the Southeastern Conference race.

"I'm sure it'll be very emotional," UF coach Roland Thornqvist said. "I think we all remember when they rolled in … they didn't really know what was going on. And here we are, four years later."

The No. 13 Razorbacks (12-5, 5-1 SEC) have won five straight matches and are coming off a statement win over No. 9 Georgia last Sunday.

Arkansas stands just one match behind the Gators (12-1, 6-0 SEC) for first place in the conference standings and is looking to avenge a 6-1 loss to UF last season. They also court the No. 1 ranked player in the nation in junior Aurelija Miseviciute.

LSU (10-6, 3-3 SEC) fell to UF twice last season, 6-1 in Baton Rouge and 4-1 in the SEC Tournament, and will look to play spoiler on Sunday.

The No. 4 Gators are on a current nine-match winning streak of their own, but perhaps a more impressive streak is that Benik and Frangulyan have never lost a dual match at home since they've been at UF.

"They certainly are buying into all the things that we talk about with the home court advantage here," Thornqvist said. "It certainly speaks of durability and resiliency, and that's what we're all about at UF."

The seniors have been a part of two SEC regular-season championship teams and two SEC Tournament championship teams since they arrived. They've also been to two Final Fours and made an Elite Eight appearance last season.

The pair was reunited this season on the doubles courts after not playing together since their freshman year. They are 7-1 so far.

That year, the duo won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American doubles title, a national tournament featuring many of the top-ranked college players.

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Despite the seniors' many accomplishments in their careers, Thornqvist doesn't think either is satisfied.

"I'm sure they'll be very emotional on Sunday, but I know both of them are very intent on this being the best year of their four years here," he said. "So we still have a ways to go in their minds, I'm pretty sure."

The UF men's tennis team leaped 10 spots and into the top 10 of the ITA rankings on Tuesday.

The No. 8 Gators will try to defend their new ranking on the road as they battle No. 41 Arkansas on Friday and No. 19 LSU on Sunday.

UF (10-4, 5-1 SEC) will look to keep pace with No. 3 Georgia in the conference race for first.

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