Knights Back on the Road for Meetings With Illinois and Nebraska

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ORLANDO – The UCF men's tennis is back on the road this weekend with two exciting Big 10 matchups. On Friday, the Knights will face off with Illinois in Urbana-Champaign at one of the nation's premier tennis facilities, the Atkins Tennis Center, at 6 pm. The squad will then make the trip west for a meeting with Nebraska in Lincoln for a Sunday matinee. This weekend will be matches three and four of five in the Knights longest road trip of the season which will conclude next week in Miami before the much-anticipated return to the USTA National Campus.
It's been a difficult start to the 2023 campaign as coach John Roddick and company look to integrate seven freshmen into the 110-man squad. After a promising opening weekend, headlined by a 5-2 win against Georgia Southern and a close match with the 16th-ranked Gators, the Knights dropped both ties during the ITA Kickoff Weekend at Ohio State. Though just four games in, another weekend on the road will serve as yet another test for this young squad. In Columbus, two made their debuts for UCF, with Yassine Dlimi and Liam Branger getting their first test of college tennis against the No. 2 Buckeyes. Dlimi was on the verge of forcing a third set on count one before Ohio State clinched the match and followed that up with yet another close battle with Tulsa. Though the Moroccan couldn't come out on top, it was an excellent introduction for the talented freshman. Branger dropped his first match against the Buckeyes before his three-set bout with Tulsa's Volodymyr Zakharov on court four went unfinished.

One freshman that has caught the attention of many is Medhi Benchakroun. Though he has dropped the first set in three of his four matches, Benchakroun has battled back to force a third in each, with his first collegiate win coming against Georgia Southern's Pierre Mouesca, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. Both he and senior Bogdan Pavel, have yet to drop singles match thus far, leading the Knights with two wins each. Pavel and his doubles partner Lleyton Cronje, who too has been in some thrilling matches to begin the season, did suffer their first loss of the season against Tulsa. Luca Hotze joins Benchakroun in being the only freshman who've secured their first win with UCF. Hotze won both his singles tie, 7-5, 6-4, and his doubles match against Georgia Southern.
ILLINOIS (Friday / 6 pm)
Friday's meeting will the fourth all-time since the program's first matchup in 2019. The Knights took a win in their only-ever match at the Atkins Tennis Center, 4-3, in 2020. Last season the Fighting Illini took a 4-3 win of their own at USTA. The big 10 contenders are 6-4 heading into tomorrow night's clash and are too looking to bounce back after dropping consecutive matches against No. 12 North Carolina and Duke. The lone common opponent is the conference favorites, Ohio State, who also defeated Illinois, 6-1, last month. Hunter Heck, ranked 123 in the latest ITA Rankings, leads the Illini.
NEBRASKA (Sunday / 12 pm)
At noon Sunday, the Knights will face off against Nebraska for the first time in the program's history. The Cornhuskers erased their two-game skid with a win against Drake, 4-2, last time out. No at 3-2, UCF will be the first of three consecutive matches against AAC opponents, with Tulsa and Wichita State to follow. Roni Hietaranta, who sits at 109 in the latest ITA Rankings, is 2-2 to start the year playing on court one.