It came down to one match.
No. 1 Florida (23-3, 13-0 Southeastern Conference) received an early exit from the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 16 after a heartbreaking 4-3 loss at the hands of Stanford on Thursday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I know how bad our players feel when a year like this comes to an end this early in the tournament,” coach Roland Thornqvist said in a release. “It certainly was a special journey for us with personal growth and SEC titles along the way.”
The Gators started out strong by securing the doubles point.
No. 3 Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan took the first match against No. 5 Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle 6-2, and No. 64 Anna Danilina and Brianna Morgan finished against Krista Hardebeck and Caroline Lampl, winning 6-1.
Singles, though, just didn't go Florida’s way.
Stanford took a quick 2-1 lead when No. 25 Carol Zhao defeated No. 4 Austin 6-4, 6-4 and Lampl defeated Josie Kuhlman 6-4, 6-4.
No. 40 Keegan returned the favor by taking down Hardebeck 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 after the Cardinal forced a third set.
Morgan then gave the Florida its first lead since the doubles point with a 7-6, 6-3 victory over Doyle.
Stanford’s Melissa Lord tied the match at 3-3 with 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 over No. 63 Danilina.
Just like its last meeting with Stanford, the decision came down to the final match.
No. 11 Belinda Woolcock took the first set against No. 46 Davidson 7-6, but Davidson would take the second set 6-3.
In the final set, it was all Davidson.
The junior took the set and the match for Stanford, advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament and ending Florida’s run.
Thursday marked the first time this decade that Florida had not advanced to at least the quarterfinals.
“The Florida-Stanford rivalry rarely disappoints, with today as no exception,” Thornqvist said. “We knew from what we had seen all year Stanford may have one of the best teams in college tennis, but we felt prepared and ready to avenge our loss to them from February.”
Despite the Gators’ Tournament hopes ending, there is still more tennis left to be played.
The NCAA Individual Championships begin May 25 in Tulsa and will feature three UF players: juniors Keegan and Woolcock, and sophomore Austin. All three will participate in the NCAA Singles Championships, while Austin and Keegan will compete as the No. 3-seed duo in the doubles portion.
Contact Jake Dreilinger at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.
UF coach Roland Thornqvist talks with Brianna Morgan during Florida's 4-0 win against Maryland on Jan. 25, 2015, at the Ring Tennis Complex.