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Monday, March 04, 2024

On its way to Chicago, the UF men's tennis team will make a pit stop in Champaign, Ill., for its first taste of indoor dual match play this season.

The No. 7 Gators (5-0) will play No. 13 Illinois today at 6 p.m. in the Atkins Tennis Center.

Illinois (4-2) is coming off its second loss of the season. Tennessee claimed a 4-3 win on the Fighting Illini's home court on Saturday.

Still, UF coach Andy Jackson considers his team's next opponent a dangerous one.

"They're probably better than that (ranking), and we've never had much success there," Jackson said. "We have to get acclimated to the indoors."

Illinois has two singles players and a doubles team ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's top 50. Freshmen Roy Kalmanovich and Dennis Nevolo are ranked No. 23 and No. 41, respectively.

The tandem of Billy Heiser and Ruan Roelofse are No. 36 in doubles.

UF sophomore Alex Lacroix is undefeated in both single and doubles. He has toppled three top-50 players himself.

After playing on Court 1 for the second time this season while Carlos Cueto sat out, Lacroix said he was looking forward to playing in the ITA Indoors after missing it last year.

Daniel Cash and Erik Corace received playing time Thursday against Central Florida. This, Jackson said, adds depth to UF's lineup.

"I'm happy to be out there again," Cash said. "It sucks that Carlos and Johnny (Hamui) are injured, but it feels good to hit the ball around."

UF has defeated two opponents - Baylor and Texas A&M - ranked in the top 15. But both of those matches were in the friendly confines of Linder Stadium.

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The Gators are heading into a hostile environment, one with a roof and a few guys likely holding a grudge against the Southeastern Conference after falling to the Volunteers.

This may be the best thing for them, Jackson said.

UF's first road match will be a preview of the ITA Indoor Championships, beginning Friday in Chicago. Illinois is also one of the 16 teams featured in the tournament, making a rematch a possibility.

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