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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Seniors pave way for Gators to overcome a two-point deficit

The No. 13 Gators find a way to close the regular season with a win

<p>Sara Dahlstrom fires an forehead return against LSU on Feb. 26, 2021. Dahlstrom is the lone junior on the 2022 women&#x27;s tennis roster. She is one of only three upperclassmen. </p>

Sara Dahlstrom fires an forehead return against LSU on Feb. 26, 2021. Dahlstrom is the lone junior on the 2022 women's tennis roster. She is one of only three upperclassmen.

Before the athletes geared up to take the floor on Tuesday afternoon, South Carolina took the chance to celebrate their seniors who prepare to begin a new chapter. After the roses and framed photographs were distributed, the party rolled on into doubles play.

The South Carolina couples brought their broomsticks to sweep out what the Gators had to offer. Each matchup ended in a 6-3 score except for the second string battle with UF’s Ida Jarlskog and Layne Sleeth against Silvia Chinellato and Emma Shelton. 

The dual turned into a Gamecock 5-3 runaway, but the beatdowns on courts one and three had already concluded. With a doubles point in their back pocket, the senior day celebration continued through the intermission before the singles took the court.

Despite the faulty start in the doubles category, Florida seniors McCartney Kessler and Jarlskog fused another series of wins together to spark a 4-2 rout over the Gamecocks.

Clearly the 1-0 setback didn’t affect No. 13 Florida’s emotions. The singles roster huddled together one last time to reel back any frustrations left over from the previous results. 

From there, seniors Jarlskog and McCartney Kessler laced up their bright pink Nike shoes to a perfect fit and laid down the hurt on their Gamecock opposition. After their underclass teammates, Sleeth and Sydney Berlin, clinched their matchups early in two easy sets, the dual all came down to the seniors for the final two points.

On court one, No. 7 Kessler shook off No. 39 Mia Horvit in the first set 6-4 but found herself in a 3-5 deficit after risky shots darted out of play. But Kessler changed up her style to let the kill shots come naturally and slowly build back on a 5-5 lead. 

Horvit offered her final serve but was met back with a laser from Kessler’s backhand. The ball was a bullseye on the corner to break the tension and grant the Florida senior a 6-5 edge. In tennis, a player must win a set by two points even if it takes hours. 

Luckily for Florida, Kessler hammered her 40-15 serve past Horvit to seal the deal. The solo triumph marks Kessler’s seventh consecutive win and improves her tally to 13-2.

Jarlskog closed her afternoon with a victory over South Carolina senior Megan Davies. The Swedish national finished off her opponent in two sets with a duplicate score of 6-4.

Now that the regular season is officially over, the Gators stand tall at 12-6 to follow on a seven-match win streak. The finish is a huge improvement compared to when they stood 3-4 in mid-February.

The Gators now have less than a week until the SEC Championship tournament in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, April 13. Florida will make its way back home to continue their practice schedule and improve their doubles gameplay.

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Contact Jesse Richardson at and follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352

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