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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Top-seeded Gators host South Alabama to kick off NCAA tournament

Florida looks to bounce back from SEC final loss

Freshman Ben Shelton against Auburn on Feb. 21. The Gators kick off the NCAA Tournament Saturday against South Alabama.
Freshman Ben Shelton against Auburn on Feb. 21. The Gators kick off the NCAA Tournament Saturday against South Alabama.

The Florida men’s tennis team enters the NCAA Tournament Saturday as the No. 1 seed despite an unexpected loss to Tennessee in the SEC tournament final. 

Florida was undefeated in conference play before narrowly falling to the Vols 4-3 on April 23, ending an impressive run of 17 consecutive victories. Prevented from laying claim to conference bragging rights, coach Bryan Shelton and co. will be insatiated by anything other than a national title to cap off a 20-2 regular season. 

The Gators expect strong performances from sophomore Blaise Bicknell and senior Josh Goodger, who both enter the postseason with undefeated records in singles play. After three SEC tournament losses in the doubles point, coach Shelton suggested he may rotate pairings for Saturday’s match.

Across the net, South Alabama enters the tournament at 12-7. After a lackluster 7-7 start to their campaign, the Jaguars rattled off five consecutive victories en route to a Sun Belt title. Florida swept the only previous matchup between the schools in 2018, 4-0. 

UF will also host Duke and USF, who play at 10 a.m. Saturday. With a Saturday victory, the Gators would battle the winner of the Blue Devils and the Bulls on Sunday. 

Florida’s women’s tennis team began its tournament with a first round victory Thursday. Coach Roland Thornqvist’s squad handled Siena College easily without dropping a set across nine matches. Siena failed to register three games in a single match against the Gators, a display of dominance for a Florida team which crashed out of the SEC tournament in the quarterfinals. The women’s team will take on USC on Saturday and attempt to punch its ticket into the Sweet Sixteen.

First serve is expected at 1 p.m. Be sure to check floridagators.com for live updates and statistics from Saturday’s matches.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@ufl.edu and follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder

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