Friday March 1, 2013Men's Tennis Begins Conference Play Sunday against Texas A&M
The Florida men’s tennis team returns to action this weekend, hosting No. 11 Texas A&M on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex. This will be the first time that the Gators and Aggies have met as Southeastern Conference opponents.
Florida (6-4, 0-0 SEC) is 2-3 all time against Texas A&M (8-4, 0-0 SEC). The Gators won the past two meetings in 2009 and 2003, both in Gainesville. The Aggies won the first three matches, two in College Station (2002, 2000) and one in Gainesville (2001).
After hitting a rough stretch in the past four matches, Florida looks to get back to its winning ways after a solid week of practice.
“I think it’s always important to learn from every experience, certainly learn from the wins, but you’ve got to learn from the losses,” said head coach Bryan Shelton. “We continue to think about the process and how we can get better each day. When I get frustrated or upset because we don’t do the things we need to do, I don’t sit here and dwell on that part. It’s more about how we can make corrections, make adjustments and keep getting better.”
Texas A&M split matches with Tulsa and Oklahoma last weekend, beating the No. 19 Golden Hurricanes, 5-2, and losing to No. 5 Oklahoma, 5-2. Texas A&M is a combined 42-21 in singles and 21-8 in doubles entering this weekend. The Aggies will face South Carolina on Friday in Columbia, S.C., before traveling to Gainesville for Sunday’s match.
“They’re a very good team,” said Coach Shelton. “I think they play good doubles. They’ve got a lot of talent on their roster. They’ve got a couple freshmen that are extremely good, Shane Vinsant and Harrison Adams. Those two have kind of become the heart of that team. They’re kind of situated top-middle of the lineup in singles and they’re playing in either the one or two spot in doubles. For a freshmen pair, that’s pretty special, especially in our league, and they’re having success.”
Coming off four straight matches in which the Gators have dropped the doubles point, UF will have a tough task against Texas A&M, who has a pair of top-25 doubles teams. Junior Ore and Jackson Withrow are ranked 17th while Adams and Vinsant rank 21st.
“We keep stressing playing aggressive doubles and so much of it comes down to serve and return of serve,” said Coach Shelton. “We’ve got to do those two things really well. We’ve focused on that this week so we have an opportunity to win that doubles point. We’ve gone a few matches now without winning it. We didn’t win it at indoors and we didn’t win it against Baylor, and we didn’t actually win a match, so right there we see the correlation. You don’t have to be a genius to see that we do better when we win the doubles point. I feel like we’ll be able to put three quality teams out there on Sunday that will give us a chance.”
In singles, the Aggies have two players ranked, No. 90 Vinsant and No. 115 Jackson Withrow. Texas A&M’s underclassmen have accounted for 37-of-42 points in singles and the freshman pair of Adams and Vinsant lead the team in singles victories with eight each. The Gators’ Florent Diep is ranked No. 62 and Bob van Overbeek is No. 104.
“We’ve just got to stay tough,” said Coach Shelton. “We’ve got to work hard when the matches are on the line and when it gets deep in the match, we’ve got to stick to playing high percentage tennis and continue to work, because in those moments we can’t hope that we’re going to come up with something. We’ve got to know our plays and we’ve got to make sure that we stay consistent and apply pressure. I think if we’re able to do those two things deep in the matches, we’ll find more success.”
With the SEC season kicking off, it’s important to get conference play started the right way against Texas A&M. Coach Shelton feels the team has prepared well this week and will be ready for the tough test against the Aggies, who have had success already this season with wins against five ranked opponents.
“I think they’re a fairly young team, but they’ve already had success this year,” Coach Shelton said. “Beating Ohio State, one of the top three or four teams in the country, earlier this season already – they’re for real. They’re going to prove to be a really tough test for us, especially coming after a tough loss against Baylor. But that’s exactly what we need, to jump right back out there and face another quality opponent. I really feel confident how well prepared we’re going to be for this match.
“I love the support that we’ve gotten from our fans here. Hopefully we get another great crowd on Sunday and they help lead us to a victory.”