Collegiate tennis teams from Florida State (FSU) and the University of Florida (UF) secured their spots in the 2020 ITA National Team Indoor Championships, after rising to victory in their respective championship brackets during the 12th annual Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Kick-Off Weekend.
60 teams, both men’s and women’s, participated in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend Jan. 24-27, 2020, at 15 different sites around the country. The ITA Kick-Off Weekend is unique in college athletics in that each regional is determined via the Kick-Off Weekend Draft, held in June, where each team selects which regional they wish to participate in. Selections were made in order of the final 2018-2019 Oracle/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings.
Six men’s teams and five women’s teams from Florida universities participated.
(Rankings below reflect position as of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend)
No. 2 UF, which served as a host school, prevailed in the men’s division and handed the University of South Florida (USF) its first loss of the season at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex after the Gators came away with a tenacious 4-0 victory over the Bulls. The feat serves as the Gators’ fourth consecutive ITA Kickoff title and National Team Indoor Championship berth.
The No. 2 Gators claim their fourth consecutive ITA Kickoff Championship with a 4-0 sweep over USF 🐊🏆
Florida will advance to the ITA Indoor Championship in Madison, Wis., February 14-17#ITAKickoff | #GoGators 🐊🎾 pic.twitter.com/SqzTwkWzp4
— Gators Men's Tennis (@GatorsMTN) January 26, 2020
In Austin, Texas, the No. 21 ranked FSU men’s tennis team suffered its first loss of the season to No. 1 ranked Texas. The Seminoles fell 4-0 in the championship match, after starting the match down 1-0 by losing the doubles point to the Longhorns. The loss in the final came after the team edged out Vanderbilt in the semifinals, 4-2.
Nearly 200 miles away, the men from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) wrapped up their stay in Fort Worth, Texas with a 4-0 loss to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the consolation match.
“We played some tough competition out here. While we did not get the results that we wanted, I am confident that we are taking steps in the right direction,” said Head Coach Ricardo Gonzalez after the match. “We need to stay focused in the process and continue to work and develop our games. It’s a long road and this weekend was just a small part of this journey. We are hungry for more.”
A gut-wrencher in L.A.
Gave one of the nation's top teams a run for their money in our #ITAKickoff Weekend title match ⚔️ #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/TIcs33zZyD
— UCF Men's Tennis (@UCF_MTennis) January 27, 2020
The remaining two men’s collegiate teams from Florida took flight to California for their Kick-Off weekend brackets. In Los Angeles, the University of Central Florida (UCF) nearly upset No. 10 UCLA in the championship match, but fell 4-3 in the final. The Knights went toe to toe with the Bruins and kept the match tight from the beginning, but ultimately came up short in their bid.
Meanwhile in Stanford, the men from the University of Miami (UM) surfed past Tulane to capture the consolation match with a 4-2 win. The victory allowed the Hurricanes to improve to 4-1 on the year, after a tough loss the day before to the University of California Golden Bears.
“We lost a tight match to Cal yesterday. The final score didn’t show it, but the match was extremely close. We had a lot of opportunities, but we didn’t play bold enough under pressure to put some points up on the board. If we had, I think the final outcome would have been completely different,” Miami head coach Aljosa Piric remarked after the final on Sunday. “We talked today about bouncing back against a really good Tulane team and correcting some of those things. And the guys did exactly that. We played hard. We played with purpose. We played to win.”
The Lady Seminoles took the advantage at home in Tallahassee, as the No. 14 ranked team served as a host for its championship bracket. In the championship match, the FSU women swept No. 18 Texas A&M 4-0 at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center and claimed their place in the Sweet 16. It’s the second time in school history the women’s tennis team has advanced to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
Feeling that National Team Indoor Championship Sweet 16 bound vibe today 😎#OneTribe | #GoNoles pic.twitter.com/LhDzIgkVn9
— FSU Women's Tennis (@FSU_WTennis) January 28, 2020
“We knew this was going to be an absolute dog fight,” said head coach Jennifer Hyde. “Texas A&M was a very good team, they chose to come here thinking we might be an easier one seed to advance through and the girls really stepped up to the occasion and that just shows how tough we are. This was probably one of the best all-around competitions that we have had from the squad this year and we knew that was what it was going to take in order to advance to Chicago.”
Also competing in the Tallahassee bracket were the women of the University of Miami, who blanked UC Santa Barbara 4-0 in the consolation round to log its first victory of the season. The Hurricanes were sent to the consolation match after the team dropped a 4-2 decision in its first dual match of the season to Texas A&M earlier in the weekend.
Across the country in California, USF’s women’s tennis team suffered a tough 4-0 loss to the University of Denver in Stanford, the team’s second match of the season. The 2-2 start by the Bulls this season is the team’s best through four matches since 2017.
South Florida v. Denver | Denver Wins
Bulls Suffer Their 2nd Loss Of The Season pic.twitter.com/3lTjWu2oeI
— USF Women's Tennis (@USFWTEN) January 27, 2020
The sting of losing in the championship match was shared by two of Florida’s powerhouse teams – UCF and UF. The No. 12 ranked UCF women fell just shy of qualifying for the National Team Indoor Championship in Ann Arbor, after being edged out in the final by No. 15 Michigan with a score of 4-2. The Knights started the match with the doubles point in pocket and rallied back after an early Michigan lead, but ultimately it was not enough to clinch the win.
Meanwhile in Raleigh, N.C., it was a redemption match-up for No. 21 UF, who took on No. 8 NC State in the Kick-Off finale for the second-straight season. After coming up short to the Wolfpack in the same match-up a season ago, the Gators couldn’t overcome an early deficit and dropped a 4-0 decision.
“I thought N.C. State played a fantastic match,” said Head Coach Roland Thornqvist after the loss. “We had three match points in doubles, which clearly could have made things a little more interesting but I was impressed with their durability in long rallies.”
The winner of each campus site will advance to the 2020 ITA National Team Indoor Championships, held February 7-10, 2020. The Men’s Team Indoor will be hosted by the University of Wisconsin in Madison while the women’s event is hosted by the University of Illinois in Chicago.
For more information on the 2020 ITA National Team Indoor Championships or for the latest Oracle/ITA Rankings, visit wearecollegetennis.com.