Although chances were high by the end of Sunday afternoon, an undefeated weekend from both of Florida’s tennis teams seemed too good to be true.
Both the men and women were looking to start an SEC-winning streak against the conference powerhouse Auburn, but only the men’s team found their way. The women put their best foot forward but returned with a 3-4 record.
Lasting three hours, the meeting between the Gators and Tigers seemed never-ending when four of the six singles matches went into three sets.
Waiting eagerly on the sideline, the Tigers were lined up ready to celebrate as senior Andy Andrade’s returning serve landed out of play to end doubles. Once the umpire called the game, teammates rushed sophomores Tyler Stice and Jan Galka to hype up their one-point lead.
All three doubles matches were deadlocked at two apiece until Auburn tandem Tad Maclean and Finn Murgett scored their third point, and the momentum shifted. The duo put four straight to upset No. 45 Sam Riffice and Duarte Vale 6-2.
Vale and freshman Ben Shelton flew high to trade chest bumps after Shelton sealed the deal to outlast sophomore Spencer Gray 6-7, 6-3, 6-3.
Everyone from Auburn, including Stice, pulled tricks from their sleeves, including exotic backhands, turnarounds, and even between-the-leg returns to keep themselves alive.
Vale walked off the courts after dominating Auburn fifth-year senior Tim Dollman 6-2, 6-2. Josh Goodger also kept his distance on the scoreboard and washed away Auburn senior Tom Wright.
The victory over Auburn marks the 21st straight SEC win dating back to March 3rd, 2020. Florida will play the LSU Tigers Friday.
The success against the Alabama Crimson was a huge pick up for the No. 22 Gators. But the energy failed to carry over as they fell to the Tigers Sunday afternoon for the first time.
Despite the one-point deficit, Auburn nearly swept the singles category after it denied the Gators any ounce of fatigue to slam their foot on the gas pedal. UF’s Ida Jarlskog forced sophomore Carolyn Ansari to three sets and won the first 6-4 but then dropped the following sets 6-3.
The two points Florida scored came from No. 32 McCartney Kessler’s 6-1, 6-2 triumph over No. 62 Selin Ovunc and pair junior Sydney Berlin and freshman Amber McGinnis, who steamrolled Ansari and Madeline Meredith.
A positive thing to take away from the match was the undoubtful efforts of No. 26 Kessler and Marlee Zein, whose performance against Taylor Russo and Selin Ovunc helped Florida gain a doubles point advantage. Kessler and Zein are on fire and left the weekend with three straight doubles wins, improving their record to 3-2 for the 2021 campaign.
Florida now falls to 3-4 and will look to land on their feet when it travels back to Gainesville and prepares to face the No. 23 LSU Tigers Friday.
Contact Jesse Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.