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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
<p>UF coach Bryan Shelton (right) congratulates McClain Kessler&nbsp;during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.</p>

UF coach Bryan Shelton (right) congratulates McClain Kessler during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.

After winning its first Southeastern Conference Tournament title in five years, UF scored back-to-back sweeps in the first two rounds of the NCAA Championship last weekend to increase its winning streak to eight-consecutive matches.

The No. 9 Gators (21-6) continued their impressive play on Friday afternoon against No. 30 SMU (22-9), defeating the Mustangs 4-0 at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time since 2005.

“I thought we came out and played well,” coach Bryan Shelton said in a release. “Hats off to SMU. I thought they had a great season. We knew it would be a tough match in the Round of 16 because everybody at this tournament is so good.”

UF received an all-around team effort in its victory over the Mustangs.

After the duo of juniors Maxx Lipman and Elliott Orkin struggled in a 6-0 loss in doubles competition, seniors Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson made up for their teammates’ poor play.

The tandem of Hidalgo and Watson won a tight contest against Hunter Johnson and Yates Johnson, taking the set 7-5 to leave it down to Florida’s third pair, freshman Alfredo Perez and sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco.

Perez and Perez-Blanco would not disappoint, knocking off Samm Butler and Ronald Slobodchikov 7-6 to clinch the doubles point and give the Gators a 1-0 lead.

Then came singles play, where Florida took all three points in straight sets to clinch the victory.

Watson and freshman McClain Kessler made quick work of their opponents, defeating Yates Johnson 6-2, 6-2 and Tony Russell 6-3, 6-0, respectively.

Perez-Blanco sealed the match for Florida, besting Slobodchikov 6-4, 6-2 to give his team the 4-0 victory.

“I thought I played really well,” Perez-Blanco said in a release. “My opponent played well as well. He was really solid off the baseline, so my goal was to make a lot of balls and be aggressive. I think I did a good job of that.”

The Gators are on a historic run this postseason, winning six matches for the first time in over a decade. Florida has outscored opponents 24-2 and swept five of their six contests since the SEC Tournament began on April 22.

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UF now moves on to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship, where it will face Virginia on Sunday at 1 p.m. Virginia is the No. 1 seed in the bracket and has won two of the last three national titles.

The Gators lost to the Cavaliers 5-2 at home earlier this season on April 6.

Contact Dylan Dixon ddixon@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.

UF coach Bryan Shelton (right) congratulates McClain Kessler during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.

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