Men's Tennis Welcomes FGCU for Saturday Matinee

by Alex Clough

ORLANDO – The UCF men’s tennis team will look to stay perfect and in good form as its five-match homestand rolls on, welcoming Florida Gulf Coast to the USTA National Campus. Following a doubleheader sweep to open the season in South Carolina and two dominating displays versus North Florida and Georgia Southern, the Knights (4-0) welcome the Eagles (1-1) to Orlando for a noon meeting Saturday afternoon.

Under the guidance of first-year head coach Lloyd Bruce-Burgess, UCF has tallied four victories to kickstart its first season as a member of the Big 12. Brilliant performances from the Knights in singles have propelled the program to its first 4-0 start since 1999, a benchmark for a new era under the English native.

Though undefeated, the Knights have shown early signs of the resilience that became rooted in the squad throughout the fall season, battling back from four consecutive dropped doubles points. The struggles began at Coastal Carolina and persisted through the home-opening slate last weekend. Bruce-Burgess believes his team continued to make improvements in doubles throughout the last two contests and will be tested once again versus the Eagles with the hopes of jumping out on the front foot.

In retrospect, UCF’s early road bumps have been quickly forgotten and overcome. The Knights’ 19-2 record across four matches in singles has left no room for opponents to capitalize on their early advantage. The margin marks the Knights’ best display since 2021 when the squad went 24-0 in singles across matches versus FGCU (2/26/21), Stetson (3/7/21), South Alabama (3/9/21) and FAU (3/13/21).

Three Knights have been at the forefront of a commanding commencement to the 2024 campaign. UT Arlington transfer Santiago Giamichelle has slotted in perfectly to the UCF lineup, having not dropped a set through his first four dual matches in Black and Gold. Sophomore Mehdi Benchakroun has followed suit with his best stretch of collegiate tennis to date.

A first Big 12 Player of the Week honor for any Knight was garnered by Lleyton Cronje who has been remarkable on court two thus far. The fifth-year clinched UCF’s last match against Georgia Southern to secure the Knights their perfect start to life back at USTA.


The Eagles split their first two matches of 2024 against Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette. The former bested FGCU in its home opener in Fort Myers before bouncing back against the Ragin Cajuns on Saturday, Jan. 20, 5-2.

FGCU is fresh off its fourth ASUN title and a trip to the NCAA tournament, losing to SEC runner-up Georgia in the first round. A 7-1 record in conference play was followed by three consecutive triumphs, including seeps versus Kennesaw State in the semifinals and North Florida in the championship.

Dating back to its first meeting in 2008, the Knights have yet to lose versus their in-state opposition. UCF moved to 8-0 in the program’s last meeting in 2022, besting the Eagles 6-1.