Knights Cap Off Road Trip With Win Against SMU

Final Box

DALLAS - The UCF men's tennis team was victorious in a three and half-hour battle with SMU, clinching the match with a Liam Branger win on court four to take the conference duel, 4-2, Sunday afternoon at the Styslinger/ Altec Tennis Complex.

The win gives the Knights their second road win of the season and fourth overall. Bogdan Pavel ensured his name will live in program history for many years to come as he broke the UCF record for doubles win with his 65th career victory. The senior, in his final season in Orlando, moved past former teammate Gabriel Decamps to give him the much-deserved crown of doubles king.

"It's a big win for us and the guys deserve it," said head coach John Roddick after the clinching point. "For this team to start getting over the hump and overall playing at a better level, it was really good to see."

Francisco Llanes won his third match of the season to improve to 3-2 on court six. The point was the Knights first singles win of the day as the Uruguayan defeated Louis Cloud in a close second to win in straight sets, 6-0, 7-5. Since making his collegiate debut against Florida State late last month, "Toto" has provided the Knights a pillar on the last court as his win served as a turning point for the squad. Mehdi Benchakroun broke out of his three-match skid as the freshman was triumphant 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, against Julian Steinhausen on court five. With the Moroccan moved down one court, he came out firing and stayed steady throughout to take the go-ahead win.

With Lleyton Cronje persevering on court two after a 16-point first set tiebreak loss to take the subsequent second-set tiebreak to force a third, Branger was amidst a back-and-forth match with Antonio Muniz-Hidalgo. The Frenchman gained the upper hand quick in the third to finish off the Mustangs and clinch the win for the Knights, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4. Cronje and SMU's Adam Neff were just underway in the rubber set as the match went unfinished.

Unlike Friday night's match with Oklahoma State, the Knights got off on the front foot with a massive doubles win. Pavel's record-breaking win along side Lleyton Cronje was the duo's fourth of the season as they both return to the win column. Yassine Dlimi picked up his first collegiate doubles win with Toto Llanes as they defeated the Mustangs duo of Steinhausen/Krall, 6-3. Paul Colin and Cooper White, who have slotted into court two over this two-game swing in the Midwest, battled back to force a tiebreak before their match went unfinished.

Pavel couldn't get it going in singles, as he dropped court one to SMU's Neff, 4-6, 3-6. Dlimi, who was on a three-match winning streak, fell in a close second set with Pranav Kumar to drop court two, 3-6, 4-6.

The win serves as a crucial momentum shifter ahead of the toughest week of the season as the Knights are set to host No. 4 Ohio State Wednesday at 5 p.m. and No. 2 Texas on Sunday at noon. With three wins from five, the Black and Gold are finding their stride as the second half of the season rolls on.

UCF 4, SMU 2
Mar 12, 2023
Styslinger/ Altec Tennis Complex
Singles Competition
1. Adam Neff (SMU) def. #105 Bogdan Pavel (UCF) 6-4, 6-3
2. Liam Krall (SMU) vs. Lleyton Cronje (UCF) 7-6 (16-14), 6-7 (6-8), 2-1, unfinished
3. Pranav Kumar (SMU) def. Yassine Dlimi (UCF) 6-3, 6-4
4. Liam Branger (UCF) def. Antonio Muniz Hidalg (SMU) 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-4
5. Mehdi Benchakroun (UCF) def. Julian Steinhausen (SMU) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2
6. Francisco Llanes (UCF) def. Louis Cloud (SMU) 6-0, 7-5
Doubles Competition
1. #76 Bogdan Pavel/Lleyton Cronje (UCF) def. Kyle Sillman/Adam Neff (SMU) 7-6 (7-5)
2. Antonio Muniz Hidalg/Pranav Kumar (SMU) vs. Paul Colin/Cooper White (UCF) 6-5, unfinished
3. Yassine Dlimi/Francisco Llanes (UCF) def. Liam Krall/Julian Steinhausen (SMU) 6-3
Match Notes
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (1,3,6,5,4)