ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s tennis team begins their season on the road at Arkansas on Saturday. This is just the second time the Knights have ever played the Razorbacks. Their only prior meeting was last season where the Black and Gold earned a 5-2 victory. The following are five things to watch for this weekend and as the season continues for the Black and Gold.
1. Saturday’s opposition
Arkansas comes into the 2019 season bringing in an experienced team, returning four seniors return to the court. Just like the Knights, the Razorbacks received votes in the preseason ORACLE/Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings. Arkansas is already 2-0 on the year after defeating Mercer in a double header by a score of 6-1 in both matches. They finished the season with a 13-14 mark but played eight ranked opponents throughout the year. Their biggest victory was over No. 14 Georgia in which they went down 3-1 in the match and fought back to win 4-3.
2. Player rankings
The Knights enter the season with five players individually ranked.
After going 9-9 in the spring of 2018, Decamps posted an impressive 12-1 individual record over the fall. He went 5-1 against ranked opponents, including a victory over the No. 2 player in college tennis to finish his fall slate. The pair of ranked freshmen, Hilderbrand and Grassi Mazzuchi, each picked up nine wins in their first taste of collegiate tennis. After dropping his first four matches, Rubio went on a red-hot 9-2 run to end the season, winning the Bedford Cup singles title along the way. Sokolovskiy opened his fall season with eight straight victories and finished with a 14-3 record.
3. No. 8 ranked recruiting class
The Knights bring in in four freshman and earned the eighth best recruiting class per the Tennis Recruiting Network. Hilderbrand came to UCF after being ranked No. 31 in the World ITF Junior Rankings in 2018; Bogdan Pavel sits at No. 77 in the same ranking. Grassi Mazzuchi comes to UCF after making appearances in the main draws of the The Junior Championships at Wibledon, the US Open Junior Tennis Championships and Roland Garros Junior French Championships in 2017. Manoel Alencar has reached the quarterfinals in 18 events during his junior career and won the Copa El Savador doubles title in 2017.
4. Returning sophomores look to take the next step
Last year’s freshman Sokolovskiy, Decamps, and Rubio look to make an impact in their second season of college tennis. Sokolovskiy went 10-7 last year as he saw time in the lineup on courts two through six. Most of his matches occurred on courts four and five, where he went 9-4 combined. Decamps played on the second court in 17 of his 18 matches, going 9-8. Rubio went 11-6 during the spring of 2018 and won nine of thirteen matches in the number three spot.
5. Season Opposition
UCF will play five ranked opponents from the preseason ORACLE/ITA rankings and play another two that received votes. The Knights will play No. 4 Florida, No. 10 Stanford, No. 16 Illinois, No. 21 Oklahoma State, No. 23 Michigan, and Tulane and Texas Tech, who both received votes. The Knights play all of the above at home except for Stanford and Michigan.