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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Gators lose their grip to Texas in top-10 matchup

Florida (3-1) falls short in ITA Kickoff Tournament after rain delays fill the weekend


The rain beat down the courts Saturday afternoon. The Gators’ and Longhorns’ singles were ready to go. 

But the sky remained cloudy, and the water wouldn’t stop. After an hour, the dryers hit the floor, and a winner was ready to be crowned.

The No. 6 Longhorns claimed the ITA Kickoff Tournament’s throne, but the No. 9 Gators didn’t go out begging on their knees. 

It was 3-3 until the final match between No. 8 Sam Riffice and No. 120 Eliot Spizzirri. The match was paused, played, paused, and then played again for seven hours. It went into three tiebreakers until the final serve at 9:05 p.m.. 

Five volleys later, it was over. 

Before the delay, it was a singles gauntlet and the Gators looked like they were in a losing fight. Although they had a 1-0 advantage from doubles play, four of their six competitors were still down by a set, and the dark clouds were starting to represent a day of gloom. 

The black skies remained, and the losses piled up. Johannes Ingildsen was riding high from his 100th win and beat Arizona’s No. 54 Filip Malbasic in three sets 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. His win streak came crashing down to a 6-2, 6-2 loss against Longhorn sophomore Cleeve Harper. 

More singles losses struck the Gators. The score was paused at 3-2 after No. 12  Duarte Vale suffered a loss, but bounced back to tie his sets twice. The heart was there, but No. 57 Siem Woldeab upset Vale 5-7, 5-7. 

Freshman Ben Shelton was also edged out in two sets. He lost 4-6, 6-7 to Chih Chi Huang, a junior from Vancouver, Canada.

No. 85 Andy Andrade was among the only bright spots, shrugging off the raindrops and No. 78 Micah Braswell 6-3, 6-0. No. 68 Blaise Bicknell’s win helped the Gators tie-up Texas 3-3. Through three tiebreakers and seven hours of delays, the final was 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. 

Head coach Bryan Shelton said last week that the Gators need to work in doubles. This deficiency showed when UF combined for a 3-3 record in the tournament, barely redeeming themselves with two wins and a doubles point against Texas.

The Gators now travel back to the Swamp and prepare for their field trip to Lake Nona, Florida, to play the UCF Knights Jan. 28.

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