After an inconsistent start to the season, the Florida Men’s tennis team is starting find their stroke. The Gators had a very tough schedule to open the season, including non-conference games against three of the top five teams in the nation. They also split their first four SEC matches with wins against South Carolina and Tennessee and losses against 12th ranked Texas A&M and 10thranked Georgia.
The team rebounded with back-to-back sweeps against Auburn and Alabama, and is growing in confidence. Senior Michael Alford says, “We’re going to come out every match and no matter what the rankings are, we’re going to give it our best. We truly believe we can win every match.”
Alford added, “We don’t think that there’s any team that is leaps and bounds better than us. We think we’re in every single match and we see that in the last couple of matches we’ve played. (We) haven’t given in and it’s fun to be playing with a group of guys who have that attitude.”
On a team that features six underclassmen on a ten-man roster, Alford knows the younger players look up to him. “Being one of the only seniors, I do consider myself one of the leaders. Not really as vocal of a leader but I show up to practice every day and just work as hard as I can; so I guess leading by example is the way I try and do things and just give it 100% all the time,” said Alford.
One of those younger players is freshman Elliot Orkin, who was ranked as high as the third best player coming out of high school. Orkin says, “Mike has been a leader to me in many ways. He’s a hard worker and he’s always competing so that’s something I look up to.”
According to Orkin, the goal of this team has been crystal clear since the moment he joined. “Our goal is to win the SEC championship, that’s what coach has been preaching to us since the beginning,” said Orkin, “That remains our goal so we’re going to have to do really well for the rest of the season to achieve that.”
The youth on this Gators team is hardly a disadvantage. Alford says, “We feel like we’re playing some good tennis collectively. Everyone’s playing well. Our goal is to come in every day and get better – and obviously when matches come we want to show up prepared, show up excited and hopefully get the job done.”
Alford and the rest of the Gators will be continuing conference play up until April 16th when they journey on to the SEC tournament in Nashville.