The Florida men’s tennis team hits the road for the first time this spring, traveling to Tallahassee to face Florida State on Saturday at noon at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center.
Florida (5-0), ranked No. 11 in the latest ITA Rankings, will play their first away match after opening the season with a five-match home stand. No. 28 Florida State (9-1) enters the match with an impressive record, including seven wins by a 7-0 margin. The Seminoles lone loss came at Pepperdine, 5-2, in the second round of ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
“We know we’re going to face some adversity there, playing an away match against a very good team,” said head coach Bryan Shelton on Thursday. “Our game plan is just to go out there and be aggressive. We want to establish that early in the doubles. Go out there with great energy and fight and really just try to play great tennis; let our tennis do the talking. From the very first point, I want us to be active up at the net and very decisive with everything that we do out there on the court.”
Florida State returned eight members of last year's squad and added one freshman to the mix. The team has two players ranked in singles with sophomores Benjamin Lock coming in at No. 99 and Dominic Cotrone at No. 107. In doubles play, Lock and senior Andres Bucaro are No. 27.
“I’m hoping that we face a lot of adversity [at FSU],” said Coach Shelton. “The guys are obviously going to be up for this match. We know the guys that we’re playing against pretty well. For us, it’s not only the pressure they put on us out there on the court, but the pressure we put on ourselves and how we deal with that. We’re still finding out what’s going to happen under pressure on the critical points. I’d like to see us have some success on those critical points when we’re under pressure so we can gain more confidence.”
Florida is 53-20 all-time against FSU and currently holds a five-match win streak against the Seminoles. The last time FSU beat UF was 2007 in Tallahassee, a match the Seminoles won 4-3. Last year, the Gators beat Florida State, 6-1, in Gainesville. UF has four players that faced FSU last season, while the Seminoles have 7 players who played in last year’s match.
The Gators beat Furman, 7-0, in their last outing. Without a midweek match, UF had time to work on things while preparing for Saturday’s match at Florida State.
“One of the things we noticed [from last week’s match] was that our first serve percentage was low across the board,” said Coach Shelton. “We really spent some time this week talking about that and then coming out and hitting extra serves this week. Really, not just serving, but serving with a purpose to hit it into a target area so we can improve our serving percentage.
“We found that we win a lot more points when we get first serves in play, in doubles and in singles. For us and for our team, we’d like to be serving closer to 70 percent first serves in. In some cases we were down in the low 50s. That’s really just not acceptable. That’s the one shot you have total control of; it’s like a free throw. We want to get those percentages up a little bit higher.”
Live scoring for the match will be available through the Florida State athletics web site. Complete results will be posted on GatorZone.com following the match.