College Matchday Preview:
Florida, Florida State men set to renew rivalry
Arthur Kapetanakis | January 30, 2020
The Florida-Florida State rivalry spans across all sports. On Feb. 1, the grudge match comes to College MatchDay at the USTA National Campus for the 81st NCAA men’s tennis match between the programs. With their campuses separated by just 150 miles, the in-state rivals first met on the tennis court in 1956.
The Gators lead the all-time series, 58-22, after beating the Seminoles twice in the 2019 spring season—once at College MatchDay and again in the NCAA tournament second round. But it was Florida State who took the 2017 and 2018 dual matches, which also featured at College MatchDay.
Ahead of Saturday’s showdown, USTA.com caught up with both schools to hear about the rivalry in their own words. Featured are: UF sophomore Sam Riffice (pictured above, left), FSU junior Chase Wood (above, right), UF head coach Bryan Shelton, FSU head coach Dwayne Hultquist and UF associate head coach Tanner Stump.
The UF-FSU rivalry at College MatchDay
Riffice (UF): We treat it as one of the biggest matches of the year. We haven’t always been on the best terms with Florida State. It just goes with the school rivalry. You come in, you know Florida State’s the big one. You want to beat them and beat them as bad as possible.
Wood (FSU): It’s huge. Right when the schedule came out, all of us just circle it on our calendar. One of our goals is to beat the Gators. Every day, we always have that in our heads, and we always work our hardest just to try to achieve that goal.
Shelton (UF): It’s a fun match. Not only are they a very good team and so the competition’s really good, we also get a great fan base that comes out and supports both teams for that encounter, and that kind of makes it special.
We used to always do this home and away. Over the last few years we’ve been invited to do College MatchDay. It’s made it really special for both teams. They make us feel like were going into a Grand Slam when we arrive. They’ll have our fight song playing. They do face painting, all these different things. Televise the match. There’s so many great things that the USTA provides us with for that match that really makes it special and gets our guys fired up to be there and to play. The crowds have been outstanding, pretty much sold out for every match that we’ve played there. It just created a great environment and great atmosphere, which brings out everybody’s best tennis.
Hultquist (FSU): It’s a very natural rivalry. Both teams have been very strong over the last few years. It’s really a win for both programs to be able to play a rivalry match with so much exposure and excitement. It’s a reason why people want to go to Florida and Florida State.
Stump (UF): It’s a great rivalry, not just in tennis but in a lot of sports. For us, being two high-level programs in tennis helps a lot.
Playing at the USTA adds another element to it. It’s been an exciting opportunity for our guys every year. Even the matches that we lost, they’ve been very tight, well-played matches. The guys don’t get an opportunity to play in that type of atmosphere all the time, so we don’t take that for granted.
They’re a very good team, they’re very dangerous, they’re very well coached.
Favorite moment in the rivalry
Riffice (UF): I remember some great matches from last year, specifically from Andy [Andrade]. He was playing No. 2 that day and he took down one of their top players to clinch. Oliver [Crawford] had a battle at No. 1. I remember it rained halfway through and so we had to go indoors. Everyone adjusted really well and it was a battle. The score was 4-1, but it was a lot closer. We had a couple of matches in three sets, so it was a really competitive, close match.
The atmosphere just brings that out. I think they play their best, we play our best, and it’s a great match.
Wood (FSU): My freshman year, us coming out on top, 4-3. It was such an exciting match. Lucas [Poullain] clinched it, 7-6, 7-6. It was just super tight, and I think that was definitely my favorite memory, seeing Lucas clinch that.
Shelton (UF): There have been some great matches. I can’t think of one in particular—every time we’ve beaten them, it’s felt unbelievable. Last year was pretty special to get the win again after losing a couple in a row. It felt really good.
Hultquist (FSU): The 2017 and 2018 matches that we played at Lake Nona really stick out as big wins. One of those matches we were missing our No. 1 player and we were still able to win. The energy that comes with it just creates the competitiveness, never giving up. Both of those matches came down to the wire, just terrific drama.
Stump (UF): Oliver Crawford played an unreal match against Lucas Poullain his freshman year. It was just an unbelievable level, and that’s really when we figured out who Oliver was and that he was going to be somebody for us that was going to be an absolute animal at the top of the lineup.
Last year, it was great to see Andy Andrade come through against one of their best players, Alex Knaff. They moved the match indoors, and things got a little bit tighter once we got inside. That was a really good memory for the guys. Finally that class that came in freshman year—we had lost to Florida State twice, and then for them to be able to get the win last year was big for them.