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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Despite extremely impressive starts, none of the Gators were able to traverse the highly competitive fields and win a championship at the ITA All-American tournaments.

The doubles team of freshmen Allie Will and Lauren Embree came the closest to accomplishing this feat, making it all the way to the finals before losing to the No. 7 team of Natalie Pluskota and Caitlin Whoriskey 3-6, 6-1, 6-0.

Will and Embree came out and played their typical aggressive and powerful style to get the 6-3 lead but were unable to keep this up for more than a set.

"At the beginning of the second set, we backed off and got complacent, and they read it like a book and became the aggressors," associate head coach Dave Balogh said. "We tried to counter it, but they were really powerful and explosive and served so big."

Embree and Will were also involved in the singles tournament, where both advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to top five opponents.

Embree fell 6-1, 6-4 to No. 4 Jana Juricova of California, while Will dropped her match 7-6(5), 7-6(5) to No. 2 Chelsey Gullickson of Georgia.

The losses can be partially attributed to the physical toll of the week, as the girls had to win five matches in the three days before their quarterfinal losses, in addition to their doubles workload.

"We could not ask them to try or compete any harder but Juricova and Gullickson were just a fraction better," Balogh said.

"They played well and gave everything they had. For two freshman to get to the quarters in singles is very impressive."

On the men's side, junior Alexandre Lacroix advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to No. 18 Steve Johnson of USC 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Lacroix established a strong baseline game to keep the 6-foot-4 Johnson away from the net, and was able to use his speed and aggression to take the first set. However, as the match wore on Johnson was able to use his size to shorten the points and take control.

After dropping the second set, Lacroix jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the third set, only to lose the final five games.

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"Alex got up early in the set but both guys were playing really well and it was just a matter of a couple points going in the other direction that made the difference," assistant coach Jeremy Bayon said.

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