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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

There's no place like home.

The Gators clicked the heels of their orange-and-blue tennis shoes and will return home after indoor stretches that proved wicked.

The men's and women's tennis teams were both 1-3 in their recent quartets of road matches that included the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor Championships in Chicago and Madison, Wis., respectively.

Each squad hits the friendlier confines of Linder Stadium this weekend, beginning at 3 p.m. today when the No. 11-ranked men host South Florida.

The Gators (6-3, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) are a perfect 5-0 at home. They boast a 42-3 series record against the Bulls (4-2) and are 7-0 against the team under coach Andy Jackson.

As Jackson predicted after Alex Lacroix's third straight win over a ranked opponent this spring, the sophomore is now No. 21 in national singles rankings. Freshman Carlos Cueto is not far behind at No. 24.

The No. 12 women take on Troy at 3 p.m. Saturday. The match was originally scheduled for 5 p.m. but was moved up due to chilly forecasts.

The Gators (5-3) are led by the SEC Women's Player of the Week, Marrit Boonstra. The junior's three consecutive wins over ranked opponents last weekend catapulted her from No. 34 to No. 7 in the singles rankings.

"She can compete her way out of (a deficit) and win the first set regardless of whether she's on the top of her game or not," UF coach Roland Thornqvist said.

"That, I think, is the mark of a champion. You gotta be able to play and compete regardless of whether you are playing 10 out of 10 or five out of 10."

That competitive nature has kept Boonstra on Court 1, where she toppled the No. 17, 31 and 38 singles players at the ITA Indoor, dropping only one set - a 7-5 one at that.

"Obviously, her game has grown (since last year), but she's showing a lot more maturity as a competitor this year, too, which she has to, playing at the top court," Thornqvist said.

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On Sunday, the UF men will play another in-state rival as No. 24 Miami comes to town. Jackson is also undefeated against the Hurricanes at 6-0, with the most recent win coming at last year's NCAA regional tournament.

The dual match begins at 1 p.m.

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