Missouri head coach Chris Wootton had one message to kick his lineup into gear before UF senior McCartney Kessler’s first serve.
“Your feet are on fire,” Wootton said.
Every Tiger on the court started to jog in place to keep their blood flowing and sneakers off the floor. Even though the Tigers attempted to stay warm, the Gators remained fearless and outlasted Mizzou in a quick 45-minute doubles session.
The Mizzou Tigers hung in tight throughout singles play and forced three sets on four separate courts. The match between UF junior Marlee Zein and freshman Valentina Pongruber became the deciding factor after Zein bounced back from a first set 4-6 deficit.
Zein didn’t take the first loss with a grain of salt but instead took a deep breath on the bench to recalibrate her system. From that moment, Zein’s gears turned up a notch to bring a new level of speed on the court. Zein glided on the court and cleverly placed arch shots proved to overwhelm Pongruber.
After three sets, Zein shook hands with Pongruber and then rushed to her teammates to celebrate the Gators’ win.
Meanwhile, on the fifth court, freshman Sarah Dahlstrom put on a fireworks display to down Mizzou senior Serena Nash in a 6-1, 6-4 clash.
No. 26 duo Kessler and Zein had the wheels on cruise control while going head-to-head with Mizzou’s Bronte Murgett and Marta Oliveria. Almost effortlessly, the UF couple stood fearless at the frontcourt for impending returns to spike it back at the opponent’s feet.
The Missouri couple tried to keep the final score close but ultimately failed in the 6-2 loss to Kessler and Zein.
Florida will face the Arkansas Razorbacks Sunday at noon. The match will stream live on FloridaGators.com
Despite a loss in the previous dual to Tennessee, team captains Sam Riffice and Duarte Vale showcased their talents in their match against the Rebel tandem of Simon Junk and Brady Draheim. Vale and Riffice reached deep in their bag of tricks to end a tight match.
Backhands, floaters, and even a split return helped Vale and Riffice sneak away with the slim 6-4 win.
No. 68 Blaise Bicknell’s racket remains ablaze after an intense back and forth with Ole Miss’ Hallquist Lithen. The Gators sophomore claimed the victory, but the final score was too close for comfort after a second-set tiebreak (6-4, 7-6).
The win marks Bicknell’s ninth dubb in duals competition as the Miami native refuses to let up on his opponents.
The manifest victory adds to the Gators’ impressive eight-game win streak. They also improved their away record to 3-1.
Florida will pack their bags again and travel to Starkville, Mississippi to play the Mississippi State Bulldogs Sunday at noon. The match will stream alongside the women’s match on FloridaGators.com.
Contact Jesse Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352