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Saturday, April 20, 2024

After waiting out weather delays on Sunday, the UF men's tennis team fell behind to Alabama early in Monday's match and was unable to recover from the deficit.

The Gators (12-6, 7-3 Southeastern Conference) failed to avenge last year's loss to the No. 24 Crimson Tide (16-8, 6-4 SEC) and fell by the same 5-2 score.

UF coach Andy Jackson said Sunday's postponement didn't help his team against Alabama.

"I think that we were more prepared to play (Sunday), and I think that Alabama did a better job preparing two days in a row," Jackson said. "I thought we were really ready to go (Sunday) and not as ready (Monday), and that's the reason why they deserved to win the match."

The No. 11 Gators started slowly by losing the doubles point to trail 1-0. It wasn't the first time this season that UF fell behind early and needed four of six singles courts to clinch the match.

The Gators are now 2-6 this season when losing the doubles point, its two wins coming against Florida State and Mississippi by 5-2 scores.

Senior Greg Ouellette and freshman Jeff Dadamo lost to the No. 15 doubles team 8-2 before freshman Tyler Hochwalt and sophomore Geoffrey Barton were unable to close the gap in their match to lose 8-4.

"We don't have the best doubles point in the country, so we really rely on our singles," Ouellette said. "We're basically a singles team."

Ouellette put UF on the scoreboard and evened the match 1-1 with his 6-3, 6-1 victory in singles.

Then, freshman Alex Lacroix fell 6-2, 6-3 to put Alabama back on top 2-1.

The Gators appeared to be in control with first-set wins on three other courts, where victories would have secured the match for UF.

That's when things got dicey for the Gators.

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Dadamo dropped his second set and eventually the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 to push Alabama's lead to 3-1.

Briceno also lost his second set in a tiebreak, 7-6, after winning the first 6-1.

Hochwalt dropped a first-set tiebreak 7-6 then battled back to take the second set 6-4. However, he ultimately came up short in the third set 6-3, and his loss clinched the victory for Alabama.

"We did a really good job of playing with a lot of emotion, and we got a lot of momentum for an hour and a half," Jackson said. "And then Alabama just weathered the storm and toughed it out and really showed a lot of guts.

"(Alabama) did a great job to turn the momentum back in their favor and then beat us in the third sets."

The Gators needed to win the final three courts in play but could only muster up one victory by freshman Erik Corace, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6.

"It was going well and we had a couple bad breaks," Ouellette said. "But that's what happens in tennis. The momentum's not going to stay on your side throughout the whole match."

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