Less than four months after its Final Four defeat, Florida's men’s tennis team is back in action.
UF will start its fall season this weekend at the Seahawk Fall Invite, hosted by UNC-Wilmington at Porters Neck Country Club in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Friday will feature the doubles quarterfinals, the singles round of 16 and quarterfinals. Saturday will be the doubles and singles semifinals and Sunday will cap off the weekend with the doubles and singles finals.
About half of Florida’s squad will be playing this weekend and the other half will be playing in the Houston 25k at Rice University.
UF looks to use the fall to build off its most successful spring season in years. It finished with its best record in almost 20 years at 25-4 and went to the Final Four for only the third time ever before losing to eventual national champion Texas.
The Gators return most of the same squad from last season, led by top junior Oliver Crawford; rising sophomore Sam Riffice (fresh off an appearance at the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru, over the summer); and senior Johannes Ingildsen.
There will be some new faces, however. Two of the best players in team history, McClain Kessler and Alfredo Perez, graduated and have been replaced by freshmen Blaise Bicknell from Miami and Will Grant from Orlando. Both are five-star blue-chip recruits. Bicknell was the No. 19 recruit out of high school, while Grant was the No. 25 prospect.
This will be Florida’s first time in the Invite. The Gators join host UNC-Wilmington, Coastal Carolina, Gardner Webb, Georgia Gwinnett, UNF, Presbyterian, UNC Asheville and VCU. Florida’s toughest challenge may come from Georgia Gwinnett, which won the NAIA Championship last season.
Coach Bryan Shelton, who is entering his eighth season at the helm, is just pumped for the season to get going.
“Our guys are focused and working hard to be ready for each opportunity,” he said.
Follow Noah Ram on Twitter @noah_ram1. Contact him at [email protected].