Florida Men’s tennis arrived in Fayetteville, Arkansas as they get ready to take on No. 17 Mississippi State at 7 p.m. in the SEC Tournament.
The Gators earned the number one overall seed in the tournament after finishing a winning season with one overall loss. Florida hopes to secure the SEC title for the first time since 2016.
The 2021 Season
Coach Bryan Shelton’s team was wondering if they would even have a season this year. With a push from the university administration and the help of the SEC, a return to the court was in sight.
“When it ended last year so abruptly for our team I thought we were in a really good position to make a deep run.” Shelton says in an interview with WRUF Sports Director, Steve Russell. “We felt like we had all the pieces in place then things got halted.”
Not only did the pandemic end play for Shelton’s team, but also brought them a major loss. The team’s number one player, Oliver Crawford, decided to turn to professional tennis leaving his Florida team with a missing piece in its roster.
Although winning 15 straight matches, Shelton’s team hasn’t had an easy run. With half of the Gators matches resulting in 7-0, the team faced a few teams that resulted in 4-3 wins, shaking them up. Shelton is glad to be put to the test. Although, as he says, his blood pressure rises during them.
“You can’t count on having a great day every day.” he says, “The goal is figuring out how to solve the problem and win when you’re a little bit off. That’s what championship teams do.”
Shelton feels like his team needed to face those battles to get better and be in the position that they are in now.
The Post Season
Shelton’s postseason approach is simple “win the day.”
The Gators have high hope the hard work pays off in their upcoming match. A Florida win against Mississippi State will put them on schedule to play in the semifinal on Thursday at 4 p.m.