Men's Tennis Sweeps Doubleheader, Defeating UNC Wilmington and Coastal Carolina

by Alex Clough

CONWAY, S.C. - If you secure your first victory of the season, you might as well grab another. That was the case for UCF men's tennis on Monday, taking down UNC Wilmington and Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina at the Stevens Tennis Complex in dominating fashion to quickly jump out to 2-0 in its first season as a member of the Big 12. While the Knights dropped the doubles point in each match, a strong display in singles propelled head coach Lloyd Bruce-Burgess to a historic moment, garnering his first wins as a collegiate head coach.

First-year Knight and UT Arlington transfer Santiago Giamichelle shinned his first dual-match in Black and Gold. The Argentinean native notched two straight-set triumphs in singles, including a 6-0 sweep against the Seahawks alongside Lleyton Cronje.

I'm really happy with how we competed as a team today on both occasions. It wasn't really easy for us to play a double header as the first match of the season, but the guys did what they needed to do. We have some areas to work on, but we will continue to improve.

Lloyd Bruce-Burgess

MATCH ONE: UCF def. UNC Wilmington (4-2)

In the Knights' first match under Bruce-Burgess, UCF secured its first victory to open a season since 2020, defeating reigning Coastal Athletic Conference champions, UNC Wilmington, 4-2. The two programs met for the first time since 2017 and for the fifth occasion all-time to open the 2024 season. A strong Knights display in singles pardoned the Seahawks' doubles point as UCF dropped just one court en route to the victory.

Six matches in 2023 came down to first-year Knight Liam Branger, who as a freshman showed his innate calmness in difficult circumstances, clinching each of those contests for UCF. Up 3-2 following straight set wins from a trio of Kngihts to take back advantage of the match, Branger went the distance in a tightly contested duel on court four. Though the senior took set one 6-3, UNC Wilmington's Gabe Hurtado was able to level the bout, before the Bordeaux native weathered the storm, taking the last 7-5 to secure Bruce-Burgess his first-career win at the helm.

Giamichelle fortified his perfect start as a Knight, slotting into court six and besting Jordi Domenech in a convincing 6-2, 6-3, victory. After making his first appearance in the ITA singles rankings, No. 95 Mehdi Benchakroun followed suit in his season-opener, taking court five, 6-2, 7-6(2).

Continuing on his strong performance on court two in 2023, Cronje was consistent in his triumph over Bekhzod Rasamatov, taking both sets, 7-5, 7-5. The first of two Knights who competed at the ITA All-American Championships in the fall, the South African battled alongside Yassine Dlimi on court one, as the reigning American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year was in the midst of his third set with Harold Huens. The Moroccon dropped the first-set tiebreak before a compelling second-set triumph, 6-2.

Francisco "Toto" Llanes went back and forth with the Seahawks' Reece Falck in both sets, though fell short, 6-3, 6-2.

The 20th-ranked tandem consisting of fifth-year Lleyton Cronje and UT Arlington transfer, Santiago Giamichelle, picked up right where they left following a dominant fall campaign. The ITA Southeast Regional Champions were commanding against the Seahawks duo of Drew Broadstreet and Trey Mallory on court one, taking the contest 6-0.

MATCH TWO: UCF def. Coastal Carolina (4-1)

UCF played spoiler for Coastal Carolina's 2024 home-opener, bouncing back after dropping the doubles point to go two-for-two to start the campaign. The squad showed toughness once again in the face of adversity, controlling all six courts in singles en route to the triumph. Following his first win in Black and Gold earlier in the day, Giamichelle clinched the late-afternoon bout with a straight-set win over Jesus Garcia, 6-3, 6-1.

In 2023, UCF was just 3-11 when losing the doubles point, a record that clearly showed no parallels with today's performance. The squad showed resilience throughout the day and against the Chanticleers, they immediately bounced back into the contest following Paul Colin's first singles victory of the season over Guilhermo Toresan, who was forced to retire in the second set, down 6-4, 3-0.

Minutes later on court two, Cronje assured his perfect start to the season with another robust win in straight sets versus Coastal Carolina's Ryuya Ata, 6-2, 6-2. The 2-0 start marks the first for the South African as a Knight, a first taste of what is sure to be an exciting farewell season of collegiate tennis for the fifth year.

The last of three Knights to start perfect throughout the opening matches was Benchakroun, who is looking to continue his climb of the ITA rankings following his first entry at No. 95. The Moroccan put UCF within reach, defeating Lucas Wayenburg in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Dlimi and Llanes both saw their matches go unfinished, though the latter was up 3-2 in the second set following his first-set victory, 6-4.

In doubles, the lone Knights win came courtesy of Colin, making his first appearance alongside Dlimi, as the tandem took home their first wins of the season, 6-3.


UCF will make its much-anticpated return to the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona this weekend following its perfect start to the campaign. The Knights will welcome North Florida for the home-opener on Saturday before concuding the weekend with Georgia Southern on Sunday. Both matches are slated to start at Noon E.T.