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Thursday, May 26, 2022
<p>Andy Andrade</p>

Andy Andrade

Stunned.

That’s how the Gators likely felt after their shocking defeat at the hands of No. 5 North Carolina.

UF was riding high coming into the match. It had won eight straight, including two wins over top-25 teams (No. 12 Columbia, and then-No. 21 FSU) since its loss against then-No. 2 Texas.

Opening Round Versus Columbia

Florida slaughtered the Columbia Lions 4-0 in the opening round of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sixteen teams were invited to compete in the Indoor Championships and kicked off the opening round Friday. UF, despite being ranked fourth in the country, was slated as the No. 5 seed while Columbia (3-2) was No. 12.

Florida took part in this tournament last year and went 1-2. In the opening round, it fell to USC and then beat Illinois in the consolation bracket. Stanford topped UF in its final contest to round out last year’s action.

The Gators are off to their best start since 2003, and Friday afternoon, their fast start continued, picking up their eighth-straight victory.

“Our guys competed really hard today against a very good Columbia team,” said coach Shelton in a release. “We played with great energy and attacked relentlessly… Every match here is a quality match, which will help us get better.”

Juniors Duarte Vale and Josh Goodger trailed halfway through their match 3-1 in doubles like they did against Purdue Monday on Court 3. Like Monday, the duo surged back, taking five-straight games to win 6-3, staying undefeated on the year.

No. 13 junior Oliver Crawford and sophomore Sam Riffice defeated No. 5 Jack Lin and Jackie Tang 6-4 to keep UF’s doubles record perfect on the year.

Shelton rolled out his typical lineup in singles but gave freshman No. 112 Blaise Bicknell the nod on Court 6 over No. 90 Lukas Greif and Goodger.

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Florida secured the first set on five out of six courts. On Court 5, Johannes Ingildsen was the only UF player to lose in the first, 7-5. Junior Andy Andrade and Alex Kotzen traded the first-set lead and were forced to go to a tiebreaker.

Andrade would prevail in the tiebreaker 10-8 to seal the first set, 7-6.

No. 4 Riffice extended the Gators lead to 2-0 when he beat No. 109 Tang 6-3, 6-0 on Court 2.

No. 11 Vale pushed his winning streak in singles to seven, winning 6-3, 6-1 over Rian Pandole over Court 3. Finally, No. 23 Crawford secured the match victory knocking off No. 20 Lin 6-1, 6-4.

Both teams elected to not finish the rest of the matches on other courts because of the remaining matches to be played.

Quarterfinals versus UNC

The fourth-seeded Tarheels (9-0) drowned the Gators 4-0 in the second round of the ITA National Team Indoors Championship in Madison, Wisconsin, Saturday evening.

Shelton focused on doubles play in the offseason and during the fall because winning doubles makes the path for grabbing a match victory easier. Whoever seals that first point only has to have three players win on their courts out of the six total. The loser can’t afford more than two defeats in singles.

“We have put a lot of time into the doubles,” Shelton said on Jan. 27. “I think it started back in the beginning of the fall season. We said we were going to make it a priority to improve and we asked our guys to do some specific things to help them get better, to be more aggressive and to serve and volley, to really work on coming forward. And we just put a lot of time into it, and the guys have bought in.”

Despite Florida’s revamped effort in doubles, it failed to translate to the match Saturday. Its slow start in doubles started with Vale and Goodger, who were undefeated at 7-0 coming into the match.

They were blanked by Rinky Hijikata and Benjamin Sigouin 6-0 on Court 3.

Then, Brian Cernoch and William Blumberg defeated Crawford and Riffice 6-4, denying UF (10-2) from taking the doubles point for the first time all season.

The Gators sluggish play continued after doubles.

Riffice was the only UF player to win the first set. He topped No. 60 Sigouin 6-3, but after taking the first, he would fall by the same score in the second. He was in the midst of the third set when UNC clinched the match victory.

Ingildsen struggled the most out of all Florida players in the first set. He fell 6-1 on Court 5 to Cernoch. He wouldn’t fare much better later on, losing by the same score in the second set.

Crawford was the second Gator to crumble. He was beaten by Blumberg in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 on Court 1.

Finally, Vale lost to Hijikata 6-4, 6-4 on Court 3.

UF returns to action Sunday against Wake Forest at 4:30 EST.

Follow Zach on Twitter @zacharyahuber and contact him at zhuber@alligator.org.

Andy Andrade

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