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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This weekend the No. 10 UF men's tennis team is hosting its last two home matches of the season beginning at 3 p.m. today against LSU.

The Tigers (6-8, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) are ranked No. 34 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association but have plenty of ferocity at Court 1. Michael Venus is No. 6 in singles, while the pairing of Venus and Neal Skupski is No. 8 in doubles.

Gators freshman Carlos Cueto defeated Venus 7-6 (7), 7-6 (6) at the SEC Indoors on Jan. 19. Cueto is ranked No. 27, one spot ahead of teammate Alex Lacroix.

UF (12-6, 3-3 SEC) is coming off a 6-1 victory at Mississippi State but dropped its last home match - the first at Linder Stadium this spring - to No. 2 Mississippi last Friday night. The Gators are currently tied for second in the SEC East.

A win against LSU would push UF closer to division leaders Georgia and Tennessee, ITA's third- and fourth-ranked teams, who defeated the Gators in mid-March.

On Sunday, UF will face Arkansas (9-9, 1-5 SEC), which also has a highly ranked singles player in No. 13 Blake Strode.

Gators coach Andy Jackson has often emphasized the team over the individual, so wins on courts 4 through 6, as well as in doubles, will be just as crucial as his top players' performances in both matches.

WOMEN BAYOU-BOUND: While the men attempt to avoid upsets, the No. 16 UF women's team faces a critical and final regular-season road stretch against No. 24 LSU and No. 15 Arkansas. The Gators play the Tigers at 4 p.m. today.

"We have a tough weekend," UF coach Roland Thornqvist said. "LSU is really good at home. We're certainly going to have our work cut out for us. We're going to continue working on a couple things."

The Gators (10-6, 4-2 SEC) have had a seemingly endless carousel of doubles teams over the season. Marrit Boonstra and Jo Mather entered the ITA doubles rankings on Tuesday at No. 80. The tandem has won the last eight consecutive matches it has played.

Boonstra, the No. 8 singles player, is undefeated at 15-0 in dual match play, which presents the question of why she fell three spots in the rankings. Still, the junior is excited about continuing SEC play and said the Arkansas match would be a crucial one.

Mather has just as much confidence as her partner.

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"The team is getting along great," Mather said. "The more we play, the better we get."

The doubles point usually sets the tone for the match. Thornqvist is aware of this and believes his tinkering - which has included involving walk-ons Brooke Allen and Lauren Wolken - has paid off.

"We found out Brooke and (freshman Barbara Pinterova) can be pretty good," he said. "We need to work on some offensive play-calling and be a little bit more aggressive at the right time, but I think in a couple weeks we might surprise some people."

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