Good Knight, Central Florida

USF 5, UCF 2

Before Wednesday’s match, it was all fun and games as the women’s tennis team (4-0) warmed up to cool tunes and Taco Bell. But once the clock struck two, the warm-ups were over and the matches begun.

With juniors Luisa Obando and Fabiana Taverna out due to injury, the Bulls faced the University of Central Florida with junior walk-ons Kristi Hurt and Carolyn Hoskin, both who were called up earlier this week.

“We knew that with two injured players it was going to come down to winning the singles matches,” head coach Gigi Fernandez said. “We weren’t really counting on winning the doubles point because we just found out this morning that Luisa wasn’t going to be able to play.”

Obando, who found out this morning that she had incurred a stress fracture in her back, had her doubles spot filled by freshman Liz Cruz.

In their first time paired together, Cruz and freshman partner Courtney Vernon pushed the Golden Knights to five match points before securing the 9-7 nail-biter victory in the 90-minute match and the team held on for the win 5-2.

“I just took one point at a time, and I knew that I could do anything with my forehand today, so I was able to just use my forehand as much as possible and I knew that (UCF) would break down,” Vernon said.

“Plus, we trust (Gigi). This was the first time we played together and we did it as a team. It just makes such a difference,” Cruz said.

Cruz also won a three-set singles match 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, against UCF freshman Jennifer Carati, and Vernon finished off the Golden Knights’ senior Kristina Lohmos 6-0, 6-2. Sophomores Neyssa Etienne (1) and Gabriela Duch (3) beat their opponents 6-1, 6-2 and 6-2, 6-3, respectively.

The No. 55 Bulls will travel to Gainesville on Monday to face the No. 2 Florida Gators. USF will go into the match undefeated, but Florida is home to two top-15 players in the country, junior Jennifer Magley (11) and senior Zerene Reyes (15).

“(The match against UF) will be a great opportunity for Courtney and Neyssa to measure themselves against ranked opponents,” Fernandez said. “To me, this match is about going there and trying to get (our) players (individually) ranked. I think (the team of) Gabi and Neyssa could be national champions.”