Roland Thornqvist

UF tennis coach Roland Thornqvist added five-star recruit Marlee Zein, Georgia Tech transfer Ida Jarlskog and Houston transfer Tsveta Dimitrova to the team this fall.

After having its season derailed last year due to injuries and a shorthanded roster, Florida’s women’s tennis team is looking to rebuild with transfers and youth.

Gone are three top-100 singles players in Anna Danilina, Josie Kuhlman and Brooke Austin, the last of the old guard that brought the Gators a national championship in 2017.

In are five-stars recruit Marlee Zein, Georgia Tech transfer Ida Jarlskog and Houston transfer Tsveta Dimitrova. Both transfers are eligible to play immediately.

Coming out of high school, Zein was ranked as the top recruit in her home state and the No. 11 recruit in the nation in her class.

Jarlskog joins the Gators after spending one season with Georgia Tech, which made it to the Final Four in last year’s tournament. She went 28-8 overall in singles play last season, including a 20-4 record in dual matches, while also going 24-12 in doubles play. Her highest rankings last season were 58th in singles and 48th in doubles. She ended the season at 95th in singles and 68th in doubles.

The Sweden native also played a role in Georgia Tech’s run to the Final Four. Jarlskog’s upset of 67th-ranked Abi Altick gave Georgia Tech the pivotal fourth point and the win over UCLA in the Elite Eight to advance to the Final Four. At the Final Four, she would win her singles match in straight sets, but Georgia Tech still went on to lose to Vanderbilt.

Dimitrova, on the other hand, spent the last two seasons at the University of Houston, going 15-3 in an injury-shortened freshman season and 28-8 overall last year. She was ranked 94th in the ITA rankings at the end of the spring season and was 6-1 against ranked opponents on the singles court. The Bulgaria native also played doubles last season at Houston, compiling a 17-4 overall record.

Additionally, Dimitrova was named to the All-American Conference team in each of her two seasons at Houston. Playing mostly at the No. 1 position for Houston, Dimitrova still finished second on the team in wins and left the university holding onto the eighth-best winning percentage in school history (0.818).

Jarlskog and Dimitrova’s experience will be incredibly valuable to the Gators this season because this year’s squad features a lot of youth. The rest of Florida’s lineup will feature rising sophomores McCartney Kessler, who joined the team midseason to fill out the shorthanded roster, Katie Kubicz and Victoria Emma.

Kessler is the only returning singles player from last year’s team to be in the top 100. Playing both the three and four positions in dual matches, Kessler finished the year with a 20-8 record as well as both SEC All-Freshman and First Team All-SEC honors. With some college experience and a full offseason under her belt, she could be an intriguing name to watch moving forward.

Emma struggled last season in singles play with an 8-14 record but was featured on the team’s best doubles pairing with the departed Danilina. She finished the year with a 13-12 record in doubles, was ranked 23rd in the nation in doubles with Danilina and won SEC Freshman of the Week once.

Kubicz split time between singles play and doubles play last season, going 19-6 overall in singles and 12-16 overall in doubles.  

Coach Roland Thornqvist, entering his 18th season with the Gators, should have his hands full this upcoming season considering the amount of youth and inexperience on the squad, but it could be a year that is the foundation for future runs at national championships.

 

You can follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727 or contact him at bfarrell@alligator.org