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Monday, May 27, 2024

The South Carolina women's tennis team has not defeated UF since before Cal Ripken Jr. began his record streak of 2,632 consecutive games. That was in 1982, the same year Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was released and the computer was named Time Magazine's "Man of the Year."

Sunday's match would be no different, as the No. 16 Gators beat the No. 20 Gamecocks 4-2 to clinch a first-round bye in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

It wasn't easy, though. At least not in the beginning.

After dropping a doubles match on Court 3, UF (13-7, 7-4 SEC) was in danger of giving up the first point. Marrit Boonstra and Jo Mather were down 6-5 before rattling off three consecutive games, leaving Jessica Alexander and Anastasia Revzina to clinch the doubles point. The crowd, Alexander said, is always a factor in Gators home matches.

"It's what they call the '12th Man' in football - clearly - playing at home, because I see our level of play go up a notch," UF coach Roland Thornqvist said. "We've done a great job holding our matches. In doubles, we were in trouble on both courts (1 and 2) there for a while and dialed the right number at the end of both."

The freshmen were the standouts of the match. Alexander claimed the team's second point, breezing by Natasa Vuckovic 6-1, 6-2. Mather rallied back after being down 3-0 and then 4-1 to beat Dijana Stojic 6-4, 6-0. Mather and Stojic, also a freshman, both had winning streaks of eight coming into the match.

Mather broke Stojic's serve and, eventually, her spirit.

"She started out playing pretty well, and I kind of made a few mistakes," Mather said. "But once I got through them, I don't think she wanted to be out there anymore. In the second set, I could see she was getting tired, and that helped me a lot."

Boonstra ended the dual match with a beautiful winner that fell just behind a backpedaling Gira Schofield, who had rushed the net. Freshman Barbara Pinterova was ahead 6-2, 5-5 in her match but did not finish after the Gators clinched the victory. Pinterova was suffering cramps in her right leg but said she'll be ready for the SEC Tournament on Friday.

Thornqvist has been impressed with the first-year players all season.

"It took a while for a couple of them to settle down because this is their first time going through this grueling schedule that we have," he said. "Every time you play, you're playing someone almost as good as you or maybe sometimes better."

MEN SWEEP GAMECOCKS: The No. 10 UF men's tennis team finished its regular season by invading enemy territory and taking no prisoners. The Gators (16-7, 7-4 SEC) easily handled the Gamecocks 7-0.

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Though the No. 17 duo of Antoine Benneteau and Joey Burkhardt was defeated in a close 8-7 (1) match, UF was able to secure the doubles point on the backs of Carlos Cueto and Alex Lacroix, who stretched their win streak to 21 after Jeff Dadamo and Johnny Hamui won on Court 2.

Cueto's was the only singles match to reach a third set. The freshman defeated No. 55 Diego Cubas 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (6) to close the day.

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