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Friday, April 12, 2024

Gators down Aggies 4-1, advance to Final Four

Florida falls in doubles, strikes back in singles for win over Texas A&M

<p>Senior captain Duarte Vale returns a ball against Auburn on Feb. 21, 2021. Vale along with doubles partner Nate Bonetto defeated the Kentucky pairing of Francois Musitelli and Yasha Zeme. Their victory contributed to Florida&#x27;s team win over the Wildcats Sunday. </p>

Senior captain Duarte Vale returns a ball against Auburn on Feb. 21, 2021. Vale along with doubles partner Nate Bonetto defeated the Kentucky pairing of Francois Musitelli and Yasha Zeme. Their victory contributed to Florida's team win over the Wildcats Sunday.

Duarte Vale rushed to the net after a strong serve and forced an error from Vacherot. Florida’s star senior collapsed onto the court and was mobbed by his teammates.The Gators are headed back to the Final Four.

Florida men’s tennis defeated Texas A&M 4-1 early Friday morning after a lengthy weather delay. The win sealed a season sweep against the Aggies and set up a rematch against Texas Friday night.

The Gators stuck with the doubles pairing of seniors Vale and Johannes Ingildsen on court one. Junior Sam Riffice and freshman Ben Shelton played together on court two, while senior Brian Berdusco with sophomore Will Grant occupied court three.

The experienced Aggie duo of Juan Carlos Aguilar and Bjorn Thomson jumped on Vale and Ingildsen early, taking advantage of inconsistent serving to take an early 2-0 lead. For a moment, Florida appeared lost on all three courts trailing multiple games on courts one and three. 

The momentum in the match shifted decisively towards the Gators after Berdusco and Grant won four successive games to take a 4-2 lead. Vale and Ingildsen won three consecutive matches of their own to lead 4-3. 

Moments later, Berdusco and Grant closed out Noah Schachter and Hady Habib 6-2 to give Florida the advantage in doubles.

After tying the contest on court two at 3-3, Shelton and Riffice dropped three games in a row and fell 6-3 to place the pressure squarely on the final duo.

In a tense and even contest, Aguilar and Thomson battled back to force Vale and Ingildsen into a tiebreak. The Gators blinked first and squandered a 5-3 lead in the tiebreak to lose 7-6 (7-6). 

Heading into singles down 1-0, Florida required four wins out of six to make its fourth Final Four in program history. Coach Bryan Shelton rolled with the same singles lineup which defeated Illinois on Monday.

Twenty minutes into the singles portion, a rain delay halted play in Orlando. Five Gators led at the break, but all matches were still early in their first set.

Play resumed around 10:45 p.m., and Riffice, senior Andy Andrade, sophomore Blaise Bicknell and Shelton all closed out their first set to create a clear path to victory for Florida. 

On courts one and six, Vale and senior Josh Goodger fell to Valentin Vacherot and Guido Marson in first set tiebreaks. 

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Shelton made quick work of Pierce Rollins on court five in his second set with a 6-2, 7-5 win to record Florida’s first point.

Bicknell struck second, completing a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Schachter on court four. The sophomore extended his undefeated singles record on the season to 26-0.

On court two, Riffice broke Habib at 4-4 to set up a match winning service game. Riffice’s clinical defensive display earned him a 7-6, 6-4 victory. 

As the clock struck midnight, Florida needed just one win from either Vale, Andrade or Goodger to clinch a Final Four berth.

Vale held all the momentum on court one after a dominant 6-1 win in set two. He quickly established a third set lead, and broke Vacherot leading 4-2 for the chance to serve out the match. On match point, 

Florida advances to face Texas on Friday, a rematch from the 2019 campaign which saw Texas defeat Florida in the Final Four en route to a national title. 

Contact Ryan Zehnder at and follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder

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