Peggy Porter

Senior Peggy Porter couldn't hold on late to clinch either the match or the SEC regular-season title for UF over Vanderbilt on Saturday. 

Alligator File Photo

Florida senior Peggy Porter saw a 3-1 lead slip away in her second set against opponent Summer Dvorak on Saturday at the Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville. When the fate of the SEC regular season championship rested in her hands and she was up 4-1 in the third set, she was determined not to let it happen again.

But sometimes, determination isn’t enough.

Porter failed to win a single game at the end of the match after establishing her 4-1 lead, as Dvorak completed a shocking comeback for Vanderbilt against UF in a 4-3 victory after being the Commodores trailed 3-1. Vanderbilt took the SEC championship with the win and will hold the No. 1 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament beginning on Wednesday.

Doubles play started out rough for Florida, as Vanderbilt quickly silenced the Gators on Court 2 and Court 3 with 6-1 victories. The wins in doubles gave Vanderbilt an early 1-0 advantage, though it wasn’t able to use its momentum as well as it liked in singles action.

UF struck first when freshman Victoria Emma defeated opponent Emma Kurtz by a score of 6-2, 6-0. Seconds afterward, freshman McCartney Kessler clinched her match against Amanda Meyer by a score of 6-1, 6-4, bringing the Gators up 2-1.

Senior Anna Danilina had a hard-fought battle in her first set and barely edged it out for a victory, but she quickly ran away with her second set and defeated Fernanda Contreras, the No. 6 singles player in the NCAA, 7-5, 6-1. Porter and freshman Katie Kubicz were up 3-1 in their second set and senior Josie Kuhlman was up 2-0 against Christina Rosca in her third set, and with a 3-1 lead over the Commodores, it looked as if Florida would leave the match with its 30th SEC title.

As the pendulum swung upward, however, it came right back down.

It all began when Kubicz gave up her lead to Vanderbilt’s Emily Smith in the third set, losing her match 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Kuhlman and Porter didn’t win any games after their respective leads: Kuhlman lost her match 6-1, 1-6, 6-2, and Porter lost her third set 6-3.

After the match, coach Roland Thornqvist didn’t have any answers.

“I don’t know,” he said after being asked what went wrong after UF’s 3-1 lead. “It usually takes a monumental effort to beat us in three sets like that, and Vanderbilt was somehow able to do that. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat.”

Florida is now gearing up for the SEC tournament, where it could have a shot at redemption against the No. 1-seeded Vanderbilt.

Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].

River Wells is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida women’s tennis team. He has previously covered UF swimming and diving. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.