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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-1fb0d0f1-7fff-7b77-a783-86483280ad93"><span>Marlee Zein will compete in doubles with Layne Sleeth.</span></span></p>

Marlee Zein will compete in doubles with Layne Sleeth.

Twenty.

That’s how many different top-50 ITA/USTA tennis programs the Florida men’s and women’s teams will face this weekend in their respective tournaments combined.

The men will travel to Athens, Georgia, to compete in the Southern Intercollegiate Championships, while the women will stay closer to home, competing in the USTA Fall Ranked Spotlight in Lake Nona, Florida.

The Gators men’s tennis team has a challenging road ahead with 11 of the 12 teams competing in the SIC ranked inside the top 50. The competition will be steep with the likes of No. 1 Texas, No. 2 Wake Forest, No. 15 Illinois and No. 21 Georgia against the seven traveling Gators. Duarte Vale and Blaise Bicknell return to action after claiming the doubles title in Florida’s first tournament this season, while Oliver Crawford and Sam Riffice get the weekend off after making Florida two-for-two this fall when they took the doubles crown in last week’s Texas Tamale Co. Houston Cup. This tournament will serve as the second team event of the season with play starting as early as Friday morning.

The women’s team will see similar — and arguably slightly more difficult — competition. The USTA tournament will feature nine squads ranked within the top 25, showcasing some of the top talent in women’s collegiate tennis. McCartney Kessler, Victoria Emma, Marlee Zein and freshman Layne Sleeth will represent Florida in the 32-players single draw and the 16-team doubles competition. Kessler and Emma will pair up as the No. 6 ranked doubles tandem, while Zein and Sleeth will make their first official appearance as a pair.

Kessler kicked things off for Florida tennis last weekend with a 5-1 singles performance in Texas, while Emma had to withdraw from the tournament due to injury. Both duos will hit the courts bright and early Friday morning at 9, followed immediately by singles play.

Follow Victor Prieto on Twitter @victorprieto_11. Contact him at vprieto@alligator.org.

Marlee Zein will compete in doubles with Layne Sleeth.

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