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Saturday, April 20, 2024

It's never easy when a successful season comes to a bitter end.

On Friday, UF completed its final match when the No. 9 team in the nation fell to No. 7 Texas in Tulsa, Okla.

"They certainly would be one of the best teams in the SEC," coach Andy Jackson said.

No small compliment when considering the SEC boasts four of the top ten schools in the nation.

The Gators advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 for the seventh straight season, joining Baylor, UCLA and Illinois as the only teams able to make such a claim.

The momentum favored Texas from the very beginning, defeating UF quickly to take the doubles point.

The No. 53 doubles team in the nation, Luis Diaz Barriga and Miguel Reyes Varela, narrowly came out on top against the Gators' Nestor Briceno and Alex Lacroix in an 8-6 decision.

The Longhorns again ended the second doubles contest on top when No. 9 Ed Corrie and Kellen Damico defeated No. 30 Jeff Dadamo and Greg Ouellette.

While doubles play is decided first, Jackson downplayed the importance of taking the first point when singles play potentially counts for six.

"In college tennis a little gets made into a lot there," he said. "I think that most of the time, the teams get a little carried away with putting stock into one point."

The quantitative gravity of winning the doubles point does not add up to a whole lot, but the confidence Texas gained in sweeping UF undoubtedly set the tone for singles play.

"You could say we were a little bit off kilter," Jackson said.

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Courts three, four and six were the first to finish under the hot sun, with different matchups yielding the same results.

Corrie, Barriga and Varela again scored points for the Longhorns, defeating the Gators' Lacroix, Dedamo and Erik Corace, respectively.

Before seniors Ouellette and Briceno could complete a third set to score points in their last tournament wearing the Orange and Blue, the match was over.

Texas 4, UF 0.

The only seniors on a team that played five freshmen in its final match were understandably emotional with the outcome.

"They were really upset because they felt like, along with me, that we really could do something at this tournament," Jackson said.

Despite the disappointing result, Jackson acknowledged that the experience would only help his young squad in the future.

"It sets the table to be able to go further next year," he said. "We'll be less awed by the occasion.

"We would like to have a better taste in our mouth after the last match next year."

The long trip back to Gainesville provides plenty of time for reflection on a season Jackson looks back on fondly.

"I'm very proud of what the team was able to do this year, top ten, Round of 16," he said.

Briceno, the No. 52 player in the nation, and Ouellette, the No. 2 player in the nation, have played in their final match for the Gators.

But their coach will not forget their hard work and commitment.

"They've been spectacular for four years," he said. "They've provided a tremendous amount of leadership and production."

Jackson also added that he expects his standout No. 1 to make headlines on the professional level.

"There's no doubt in my mind he will have a good pro career," he said of Ouellette.

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