Near or far, wherever they are, the Gators celebrated on Friday night after trampling the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The women’s team’s two-game road trip started off with a victory after it defeated the Tide 4-1 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The men earned back-to-back victories after a three-week without games .
Sneakers squeaks on the court echoed throughout the RAB Tennis Facility Friday afternoon. After nearly three hours, the volleys came, and the Gators earned a much-needed victory over the Crimson Tide to bring their record to 3-3.
Down by a point, junior Sydney Berlin and freshman Amber McGinnis pushed Alabama freshman couple Anna Parkhomenko and Anne Marie Miser to their limits. After Berlin and McGinnis stole the third point following a 40-40 deuce, Parkhomenko and Miser used every inch of the court and earned three straight to seal the deal for the Tide.
No. 32 McCartney Kessler and Marlee Zein won their second doubles match in a row. The tandem overcame Alabama’s Sydney Riley and Moka Ito 6-3 to end their struggles in doubles play. Florida clinched the doubles point advantage after Ida Jarlskog and Sara Dahlstrom rolled over sophomore Sasha Gorchanyuk and graduate student Alba Cortina Pou.
The dagger was placed in Florida’s SEC rival when Jarlskog and Zein proved too much for their opponents in singles competition. Zein handled Alabama sophomore Gorchanyuk in a 6-1, 6-3 route for her second straight win. Jarlskog, in the meantime, stayed consistent against Parkhomenko after a 6-2, 6-2 domination.
The Gators will stay in Alabama and travel to Auburn to take on the Tigers Feb. 21. Live stats are available on FloridaGators.com
The Crimson Tide brought everything they could to the Swamp, but what they had wasn’t enough. Every play ended in Florida’s favor — from the first serve in doubles competition to the final return three hours later.
Seniors Duarte Vale and Andy Andrade finished in simultaneous wins to start off the match Friday and pushed the early one-point lead to a 3-0 takeover. Shortly after, junior Sam Riffice gave his final serve to Alabama graduate student Edson Ortiz. The ball met both players six times before landing out of bounds, and Riffice walked away with a 7-6, 7-5 match decider.
The umpires let the final matches continue, although the die was cast when the Gators took a 4-0 lead.
Coming back from a 5-6 deficit, captains Vale and Riffice found a way to regroup themselves to surpass the Tide’s top tandem of seniors Patrick Kaukovalta and Riccardo Roberto 7-5. The duos went blow for blow in the grueling final minutes, trading shots to break the 40-40 deuce.
The previous three-week playing drought allowed Florida head coach Bryan Shelton to evaluate the starting roster and make further adjustments, which included switching partners for the No. 2 and No. 3 pairs.
Freshman Ben Shelton partnered with Andrade rather than usual teammate Johannes Ingildsen, who ended up pairing with sophomore Will Grant.
Grant and Ingildsen developed their own bond while playing together for the first time and denied Alabama graduate students Gabriel Diaz Freire and Zhe Zhou any satisfaction, winning 6-4.
Florida will get a day of rest until the next home match against Auburn Sunday. Follow the live stats on FloridaGators.com.
Contact Jesse Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352