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Monday, June 24, 2024

It was like deja vu for the UF women's tennis team on Sunday.

Facing second-seeded and eighth-ranked Georgia (20-4) for the second consecutive year in the SEC Tournament Championship, the No. 5 Gators (20-2) fell victim to the Bulldogs once again, this time 4-3. Georgia won 4-2 in last year's final.

"Georgia was really outstanding (Sunday)," UF coach Roland Thornqvist said. "All their players played at the absolute highest level they could, and you've got to give them credit.

"The difference between the two teams (Sunday) was not that great, obviously, judging by the score."

No. 1 seed UF, which faced one of the most challenging draws for a top seed in tournament history, was unable to complete the come-from-behind victory, losing the final court by one break of serve in a third set.

The Gators, who beat the Bulldogs 5-2 earlier this season, jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after winning the doubles point in routine fashion, 8-1 and 8-6. UF failed to lose a doubles match the entire tournament and has not lost the doubles point all season.

Freshman Julia Cohen fell 6-2, 6-1 to tie the match before senior Lolita Frangulyan put the Gators back on top 2-1 with her 6-1, 6-2 win.

Senior Whitney Benik lost her second match in as many days, 6-2, 6-4, after snapping her 15-match winning streak on Saturday.

With the score tied at 2, sophomore Csilla Borsanyi came up short 6-4, 6-4 to put Georgia ahead for the first time.

"We were clearly better than they were in doubles, but we got off to a slow, slow start in singles," Thornqvist said. "We were outplayed today. That's just the bottom line."

UF needed to win the final two courts, and sophomores Anastasia Revzina and Marrit Boonstra, already down a set each, won second-set tiebreakers to force third sets.

Revzina tied the score at 3 with a 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 victory, leaving Boonstra's match to decide the outcome.

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Tied at 4-4 in the final set, Boonstra was broken by her opponent, who then served out the match, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4, ending UF's bid for a tournament title and its 17-match winning streak.

"That situation is something everybody's gonna be in every now and then in their career, and that was Marrit's first," Thornqvist said. "And obviously we're gonna be better off from this experience, even though I know she's terribly disappointed now. But she's gonna be better off next time she's in that spot."

UF swept No. 30 Auburn, the host team, 4-0 on Friday in the quarterfinal match on three straight-set singles victories. The Tigers were the Gators' closest win during the regular season.

Saturday's semifinal match against fouth-seeded and 12th-ranked Vanderbilt was tied at 2-2 and up for grabs when UF responded with two late second-set comebacks to win 4-2.

Up 2-0, the Gators faced straight-set losses by Benik and Cohen.

Then Frangulyan battled from down a break in the second set to win her match, 6-2, 7-5. Borsanyi did the same in a 6-3, 6-4 win that clinched the match and secured UF's spot in the final.

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