One of the best seasons in recent Florida men’s tennis history came to a disappointing close on Sunday afternoon.
Playing in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship for the first time in over a decade, the No. 9 Gators (21-7) were outmatched in a 4-0 loss to No. 1 Virginia (28-4) at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I thought UVA came out and played really well today,” coach Bryan Shelton said in a release. “… They came out really strong today, serving well and really playing aggressively.”
Florida struggled to gather any momentum against the Cavaliers in singles competition after it dropped the doubles point of a match for the first time since March 27.
The UF duo of freshman Alfredo Perez and sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco fell to Collin Altamirano and J.C. Aragone 6-3. Seniors Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson were then bested by Luca Corinteli and Ryan Shane 6-3, giving UVA the early 1-0 lead.
In singles play, Virginia made quick work of the Gators, winning the first set of all six matches.
Freshman McClain Kessler was the first player to go down for Florida, losing to Henrik Wiersholm 6-4, 6-2.
UF junior Elliott Orkin suffered the next defeat, dropping in straight sets to Thai-Son Kwiatkowski 7-6, 6-2.
UVA’s Alexander Ritschard then clinched the match for the Cavaliers, topping Perez-Blanco 6-3, 7-6.
The loss to Virginia signifies the close of a 2016 campaign that saw Florida play some of its best tennis in program history. The Gators won their most dual matches in a season since 2011, seized their first Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship in five years and strung together their longest winning streak under the guidance of coach Shelton.
“Our guys had an incredible year,” Shelton said. “I felt like we got better throughout the whole season and obviously in the postseason winning the SEC title, as well as making a good run here (NCAA Championships) up to this point.”
The season will continue for four Gators in the NCAA Individual Singles and Doubles Championships, which run from May 25 to May 30 in Tulsa.
Hidalgo, Perez and Orkin will compete in the singles tournament, while Hidalgo and Watson will team up for the final time in their collegiate careers in the doubles tournament.
Contact Dylan Dixon at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @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.