Roland Thornqvist

Florida coach Roland Thornqvist and the Gators are ranked No. 11 heading into the spring despite being mostly composed of freshmen and sophomores.

 

The UF women’s tennis team enters the 2019 spring season with unfinished business after being knocked out by Florida State in the 2018 NCAA Tournament last season.

It was a campaign in which four seniors led the way while true freshmen Victoria Emma, McCartney Kessler and Katie Kubicz provided strong play as first-year starters. But heartbreaking losses in the NCAA and SEC Tournaments against FSU and Vanderbilt, respectively, ended the season on a negative note.

Florida enters the 2019 spring season ranked No. 11 in the Oracle/ITA Division I Preseason Rankings and hopes to return to national prominence under head coach Roland Thornqvist. However, a tough task lies ahead for the veteran coach with just one upperclassman on the roster this season. Junior transfer Tsveta Dimitrova stands as the lone upperclassman for the Gators, yet it’s her first season in Gainesville after arriving from the University of Houston.

Though Florida lacks a veteran presence with the loss of Brooke Austin, Anna Danilina, Josie Kuhlman and Peggy Porter, it reloads the roster with three incoming freshmen in Sydney Berlin, Anastasia Kharitonova and Marlee Zein.

Georgia Tech sophomore transfer Ida Jarlskog also joined the Florida lineup.

Zein has already proven she can compete after securing a third-place finish at the Seminole All-Conference Showdown to close out the fall season, while Jarlskog held her own last season with the Jackets holding a 28-8 singles record.

Jarlskog finished her first fall stint at Florida with an 11-3 record.

Thornqvist will look to his quartet of young sophomores to lead the team with McCartney Kessler at its center. After finishing with First-Team All-SEC Honors as a freshman along with a 20-8 overall singles record, Thornqvist hopes Kessler can be a more vocal leader for the young team.

“She has the unique ability to make friends with everybody on the team,” Thornqvist said in a video posted to the team’s Twitter account. “She’s a great asset in the locker room in that she can reach everyone.”

Kessler closed out her fall season competing in doubles with fellow sophomore Victoria Emma, losing in the consolation round of the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships. The two finished with a 6-2 record in the 2018 fall campaign.

The Gators are ready for the 2019 spring season when they take on UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the Freeman Memorial Championships this weekend.

Follow Victor Prieto @victorprieto_11 and contact him at [email protected]