Sunday proved to be a fruitful day for the Florida tennis teams. The men's team began the day early to complete their 4-0 shutout over the Miami Hurricanes, a match which was suspended in progress Saturday night just after 10:30pm due to rain. Play resumed about 12 hours later as the skies cleared Sunday morning over Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville.
Florida had already earned the doubles point Friday night and players were in their first set of singles when play was halted. With his doubles victory Friday, Senior Alexandre Lacroix tied the Gators record for career wins, and then took sole possession as the all-time wins leader with his singles victory on Sunday. Junior Nassim Slilam was the first Gator to earn a singles point with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 2. He was followed by Lacroix at No.1, who won his match 6-1, 6-1, and freshman Spencer Newman who clinched the match for the Gators with his 6-0, 6-4 win at No. 6.
"I knew it was my last match here at Florida so there was a lot of emotion there," Lacroix said. "I'm not trying to process right now, but obviously I spent four years here at Florida, and we are at the Sweet 16. I think we can go far. These four years have been good for my game."
The No. 7 seeded Gators now travel to Palo Alto, as Stanford hosts the remainder of the NCAA Championships. Florida will face the No. 10 seeded Kentucky Wildcats for the third time this season. The teams split the first two meetings, as the Wildcats downed the Gators 4-3 in Gainesville April 1, before the Gators got revenge with a 4-0 win in the SEC Tournament Championship match (also in Gainesville) April 24. The Gators (20-9) take their season-best seven match winning streak into the round of 16. Six of the Gators' eight losses this season have been by a 4-3 margin (the Gators have also won four matches by a 4-3 margin). All those close matches could help the team handle the postseason pressure, especially considering Lacroix is the lone senior on an eight man roster along with three freshmen, three sophomores and a junior.
"We are really excited to have the big privilege to go to Stanford, making the Sweet 16, beating one of our biggest rivals," head coach Andy Jackson said. "We are very excited about the way things went today. The same thing that I told my team after the match was over, there's only one other thing that's more exciting in college tennis than getting to go to the Sweet 16 in men's tennis and that's to be able to go to the Sweet 16 with a team that has a chance. We believe the tournament is wide open. We believe that we have a chance."
Not to be outdone, the Lady Gators tennis team (27-1) breezed by the South Carolina Gamecocks 4-0 Sunday at Ring Tennis Complex to also advance to the NCAA field of 16. After Florida easily earned the doubles point, sophomore Allie Will stormed out to a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles, followed by junior Joanna Mather winning 6-2, 6-2 at No. 4 and freshman Alex Cercone's match-clinching 6-0, 6-3 win at No. 5.
The win was the 17th straight for the Gators, who last lost on February 21 to the No. 1 ranked Stanford Cardinal in the ITA Team Indoor Championships. That is quite an accomplishment considering Florida has no seniors on its roster and seven of its nine players are freshmen or sophomores. Like the men's team, the women (seeded No., 2) will also travel to Stanford, and will next face No 15 seed Clemson in the round of 16 Friday, May 20 at 3pm.