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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Vanderbilt, here's some news you don't want to hear:

Megan Alexander is doing the same thing as she did last season. The finish line of the season is in sight, and Alexander is sprinting toward it.

Last season, the then-freshman finished strong as she won her singles and doubles matches in the Round of 16 and then dominated UCLA's 40th-ranked Tracy Lin 6-2, 6-4 in the Gators' quarterfinal loss.

Now Alexander is coming on strong again, and No. 6 UF will hope for similar results when the Gators (22-2) take on the Commodores (20-5) today at 7 p.m. in Tulsa, Okla., in the Round of 16.

Coach Roland Thornqvist even said Alexander may have been his team's best player in the NCAA. Thornqvist said Alexander has been "very up and down" this season, but now the sophomore has come back to form.

"Her and (associate head coach) Dave (Balogh) have gone way above and beyond what we require for about a month now," Thornqvist said. "It's starting to pay off. She's fitter than she's been all year. That's a big part of her confidence."

But dealing with pressure isn't anything new to Alexander. Last season at home against Miami, it came down to her against Audrey Banada, who Thornqvist called "one of the toughest outs in the country." UF's freshman came through and won the game, clinching the match. Now every one knows how she can deal with being in the pressure cooker.

"She's a gamer," Thornqvist said. "When the lights are on, she always performs. The fact that she's playing well now with the stakes high is not surprising to me."

The No. 9 men (17-7) also hope to continue their quest for a first ever national championship when they match up against No. 7 Texas (22-5) Friday at 4 p.m. That match will also be in Tulsa, and both Gator squads will stay until they lose or come back home with the championship trophy.

"This team has every intention of winning four more matches," UF Coach Andy Jackson said. "Texas will be tough, but we're tough, too."

While it's been a somewhat inconsistent season for the men, things have looked awfully good for them lately. The Gators cruised through the opening two rounds by sweeping Navy 5-0 and Miami, who they lost to earlier in the season, 4-1.

Senior Nestor Briceno was particularly impressive through the first two rounds, winning both his doubles matches throughout the weekend by a combined score of 16-7 and then was even stronger in singles play winning all four of his games and not allowing more than four points in any of them.

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