No. 2 Gators have luxury of an eight-player roster
Published: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 10:11 p.m.
Florida women's tennis coach Roland Thornqvist sleeps a little easier these days.
FYI: Today's tennis matches
That's because in his second season, which begins today against South Florida at the Ring Tennis Complex at 11 a.m., he did not have to scramble to find a player to fill up the lineup. He does not have to worry about limiting practice to prevent injuries.
This season, Thornqvist has the luxury of an eight-player roster.
"We can push our kids a little bit more in practice than we could last year," Thornqvist said. "I think ultimately that will lead to more improvement. I think our fitness level will be better at the end of the year than last year because we have the ability to do more in practice now. All of those things will help down the road."
Fielding a team with more than the minimum six players almost is unheard of the past few seasons.
The Gators had just the six players the past two seasons and seven players in 2000.
While having six players meant there was no bickering among the players for playing time, the drawback was that one singles and one doubles match had to be defaulted if there was an injury, a scenario that happened at times the past two seasons.
"It is wonderful and we don't have to worry about that," senior Julia Scaringe said. "We have been in that position where we've had five. Myself in particular, I had two injuries and we started out the last two years defaulting a point every time."
The eight-player roster is Florida's largest since 1999, when the roster also fielded eight.
Besides the numbers, Florida has one of its most talented teams entering the season.
Five Gators - Lindsay Dawaf (seventh), Alexis Gordon (ninth), Julie Rotondi (22nd), Scaringe (24th) and Zerene Reyes (26th) - are ranked in the top 30. In doubles, Scaringe and Gordon are seventh and Dawaf and Rotondi are 12th.
"(The competition) helped us a lot in the fall during practice," Dawaf said. "Everyone on the team is competitive and it made practice that much more intense. It helped everyone's game move up to the next level."
In comparison, Stanford, with 20 first-place votes to receive the top spot in the preseason ranking, has four singles players in the top 30 and one doubles team in the top 15.
Florida did lose one key member from last season's NCAA runner-up team in Jessica Lehnhoff, who finished the year as the No. 2-ranked singles player. But not having a definite No. 1 singles player like Lehnhoff, who had a 34-8 record her final season, may not be a problem.
"There's going to be some switching (in the lineup)," Thornqvist said. "That's going to be one of our weapons this year. Last year, we rotated Zerene and Alexis at (Nos.) 3 and 4, and they were pretty much dead even, and that really helped us out that we could switch them at key times. I see us being able to do that at every spot this year."
Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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