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Friday, May 24, 2024

The No. 16 UF women's tennis team closes a turbulent regular season against No. 20 South Carolina at 10 a.m. On Saturday.

The Gators (12-8, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) are tied for third with the Gamecocks in the SEC East, so the two will be also competing for a conference tournament seed. The SEC Tournament begins Thursday.

The team has hit plenty of bumps this season. After a quick 4-0 start, UF ran into trouble in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor Championship in Madison, Wis., in mid-February, returning to Linder Stadium as a .500 club.

During the ITA Indoors on February 13, the Gators lost a leader in junior Megan Alexander, who has sat out since with an undisclosed injury. Shorthanded with five scholarship players, they added three walk-ons.

"Years like this year, you find the true color of an athlete," UF coach Roland Thornqvist said. "As a coach, you really find out a lot about your personnel and the team and the whole program during years like this. We're certainly going to keep plugging away."

And the team has fought tooth and nail to do that. Six of its eight losses have come by a slim 4-3 final score. The team has not lost at home, stretching a regular-season winning streak to 75 games with its win against No. 31 Auburn on Sunday.

"We're fighting," Thornqvist said. "Some matches we might not have been as good as the other team, but I'm really proud of them. They're giving everything they have. We're banged up in spots, but no excuses. It's the Gator way.

"You put your head down and you give it all you got. If you come up short, you shake the other team's hand and say, 'Good job,' and move on to the next one."

MEN FINISH SEASON ON ROAD: The No. 10 UF men's tennis team also meets South Carolina, but its regular season will end in Columbia, S.C.

The Gators (15-7, 6-4 SEC), third in the SEC East, will get nearly a week's rest before heading back to Auburn, Ala., where they dropped a hard-fought match 4-3 against the Tigers on Sunday.

Like the women, the men have had their share of disappointments over the spring. No. 100-ranked sophomore Tyler Hochwalt has been sidelined for all but one match. Freshman Carlos Cueto was held out of singles play against Auburn with back spasms, but coach Andy Jackson does not expect the soreness to carry over to Saturday's 2 p.m. match.

UF is deep, though, and Jackson said he expects his team to respond in the SEC Tournament.

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