The UCF men’s tennis team kicked off the semester by conquering the Mercer University Bears 6-1 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando on Friday.
The Knights set the bar high with a strong start by outscoring their opponents through doubles and singles, earning its first victory of the season.
Even though they earned their first point for the season, not all matches went smooth for the UCF Knights.
Sophomore Trey Hilderbrand had a shaky start against freshman Lucas Wayenburg, finishing the first set 1-6. Hilderband fought back in the second and third sets, winning the match in court six (1-6, 6-3, 6-3).
Junior Gabriel Decamps was the last to finish for the evening as he fought a close match against Mercer senior Olivier Stuart. Decamps won the first set 6-7 (5-7), but lost the grip on the lead against the Mercer senior in the second and third sets (6-2, 6-4).
Head coach John Roddick said he was very pleased with the starting sets the Knights had against the Mercer Bears.
“We gotta extend the leads and close out sets a little better than we did tonight from an improving standpoint,” Roddick said. “All in all, there are a lot of good things, and a couple of things that are concerning that we really gotta clean up.”
Being the newest addition to the Knights, freshman JanMagnus Johnson took the first victory of the night in a doubles match. Paired with junior Alan Rubio, they took a score of 6-1 against Mercer senior Sachin Khurana and junior Carver Arant.
Johnson also brought the third point overall for UCF by winning his single match against Mercer sophomore, David Georgadze 6-3, 6-0.
Johnson walked away with a lot of emotions as he earned two victories in his first intercollegiate tennis competition.
“A lot of things can change with one point, you know, one shot,” Johnson said. “So [I’m] just trying to prepare for that mentality as best I can, and just, every point means so much.”
As the UCF Knights began to secure sets and win matches, the team huddled up around different courts supporting their teammates.
Rubio secured the second point overall for UCF against Arant (6-1, 6-0). He said he was happy to finish early and take some pressure off the team.
“I enjoyed it a lot, because I was waiting for the season to start, so I felt I was ready, because I prepared for the season,” Rubio said. “The environment of playing college tennis is always great. It’s not the same playing individual, but with the whole team it’s kind of fun, so it’s pretty nice to feel that.”
The Knights are gearing up to face the University of Florida Gators at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex on Jan. 19 at 1 p.m.
There won’t be much celebration from Roddick, as he said it’s only one more step and there’s still a long road to go for the UCF Knights.
“This year I feel we are more prepared, and we’re an older team now, Florida is very good," Roddick said. "We’re going to have to play very well to make it a match, but I think we can do that."