Decamps preparing for shot

UCF sophomore Gabriel Decamps prepares to hit a forehand shot against No. 29 Miami on March 3. The Knights defeated the Hurricanes at the USTA National Campus by a final of 4-0. 

A trio of freshmen paved the way to a 4-0 victory for the UCF men’s tennis team against No. 29 Miami on Sunday evening at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona.

Freshmen Trey Hilderbrand, Bogdan Pavel and Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi all claimed crucial singles points for the Knights, allowing the team to bust out the brooms for the sweep after winning the doubles point.

The other three singles matches were abandoned after the fourth point was clinched by Grassi Mazzuchi, who won by a final of 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 over the Hurricanes' Dane Dunlap.

The Knights are now on a five-game winning streak, which has their record at 6-5 on the season.

Pavel managed to knock off Miami challenger Francisco Bastias in straight sets— 6-2, 6-3 — to give the Knights a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

Pavel had high hopes for the squad’s future after the breakthrough performance.

“What you saw tonight, that’s what UCF is and that’s what UCF is going to be,” Pavel said.

Pavel’s doubles partner, Hildebrand, did his part to help clinch the doubles point in a 6-4 victory over Miami’s Tatsuki Shimamoto and Adria Soriano Barrera with booming serves that Miami had trouble returning.

In his singles match, Hilderbrand dropped the opening set before rebounding to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 over Franco Aubone.

Hilderbrand credited the coaching staff for getting him on the right path after falling down 0-5 in the first set.

From there, he fought his way back. He was able to win a number of points by forcing the ball past Aubone as he attacked the net.

The freshman also fed off the energy from the crowd of approximately 1,000 people, according to USTA officials on site. During many point wins, Hilderbrand motioned to the crowd to make sure their voices were heard.

On one occasion, he broke down into a hip-thrusting dance that many wouldn't see in a traditional tennis setting.

“I really like putting on a show, to be honest,” Hilderbrand said. “The crowd kinda gets me hyped up and they were doing really well tonight. I heard nicknames and stuff like that, so I just decided to give them a show, give them what they came here for.”

Sunday's contest was part of the USTA’s College MatchDay series, which features matchups from top collegiate tennis programs across the country.

It was the fourth time this season that the Knights have played a ranked opponent, and it was the first time they have walked away victorious. Earlier in the season, UCF lost to then-No. 4 Florida, No. 16 Michigan and No. 10 Stanford.

UCF Director of Tennis John Roddick said the young team has had to fight through a lot of adversity to get to this point. Previous injuries, scheduling matches on short rest and overall inexperience have led to a slow start on the season.

Roddick said a players-only team dinner on Saturday night showed the coaching staff initiative among the group to keep improving, and that the win was the biggest they’ve had in the past two seasons.

“They decided last night that win or lose, they were going to come out and compete well, compete as a team and everybody was going to show up and give the best effort they could,” Roddick said. “They did it tonight.”

UCF will look to continue its winning streak with the beginning of American Athletic Conference play against Tulane on Wednesday at USTA National Campus in Lake Nona. 

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