Dec. 5, 2011
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By David Buchman
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF men's tennis team opened its fall schedule at the Gator Invitational back in September. At the event, the Knights faced three in-state squads and were able to get into a nice little rhythm.
In the opening round of matches, the Knights went up against cross I-4 rival USF. Against the Bulls, Knights head coach Bobby Cashman noticed the play of Matthew Gladstone and Francesc Aulina. Together, the pair won its doubles match, but it was more of their individual play that stood out.
Gladstone, a sophomore, spent the previous year with the Knights, and Cashman saw a tremendous jump in the maturity of his game. Aulina, a transfer from Virginia Tech, caught coach's eye quickly as he defeated his first opponent as a Knight in a tough 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, battle.
During the event, the Knights went on to play their only ranked opponents of the schedule when they faced Florida. While the Knights were unable to take any singles or doubles matches against UF, Cashman was pleased with what he saw. "We battled hard against the top-rated Gators," he said. "We didn't play scared and we gave them a run for their money." In the final day of the event the Knights faced FAU, where they were able to take home four singles matches and three doubles victories.
For the Knights, the second event of the fall was played in Tampa. There the team competed in the State of Florida Championship where Mitch Thams and Juan Balona took the main draw doubles title. Thams also moved to the semifinals of singles before being defeated 6-1, 6-1, by his UNF opponent.
Following the State of Florida Championship, the Knights hosted a local ITA Campus Showdown where Jorge Blasco won the exhibition event. For Blasco, the event was the only one he could compete in during the fall as he will become eligible by the NCAA in the spring.
In the final two events of the fall the Knights competed at the ITA Southeast Regionals in Georgia, and hosted the UCF Invitational. During the two events, the Knights won 10 singles matches while facing tough opponents such as Florida, FGCU, UNF, Auburn, Jacksonville, Arkansas and Miami.
"I was very pleased with the way we finished," Cashman said. "There were times when we were down and could have given up, but this team has fight in it. As a coach that's what you like to see during the fall."
The spring schedule for the Knights opens in January with the UCF Invitational. The event will run Jan.6-8. Following the invitational the Knights will play their first dual-match event against Wake Forest Jan. 22 at the UCF Tennis Complex.