Florida women’s tennis had the opportunity to compete against top programs in the nation this past weekend in the ITA National Indoor Championship. Though they were unable to win the tournament, they played three matches against ranked opponents, proving their competitiveness and gaining valuable experience along the way.
The first round kicked off Friday with a matchup between the No. 13 Gators and No. 7 Virginia. Both teams came into the match with a perfect 6-0 record. UF’s ability to generate hot starts in the doubles portion has been key to their 7-3 season, and their dominance continued against the Cavaliers.
However, the task was no easy feat.
Florida’s top tandem, featuring junior Carly Briggs and senior Marlee Zein, lost their match, 6-1. Graduate student McCartney Kessler and Emma Shelton were faced with a tiebreaker but quickly handled the opposition to grab a 7-3 tiebreak win. Freshmen duo Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee also competed in a tiebreaker, coming down to three match points. but overcame their opponents in the end.
Despite early success, the Gators failed to finish the job in the singles segment. No. 84 Emma Shelton quickly dropped her match in two sets (6-1, 6-3), but Zein put the Gators back on top with a win over No. 28 Natasha Subhash. The Gators stalled from there, losing the next three singles matches and falling to Virginia, 4-2.
Florida played in the consolation draw against No. 11 Ohio State the following day, and once again faced two tiebreakers in doubles. The Gators emerged victorious once again in both matches to take the advantage. OSU brought the match to a deadlock after Spee lost in two rapid sets to the Buckeyes’ Shelly Bereznyak (6-1, 6-1). The teams then split the next four matches to bring it to a 3-3 stalemate.
The deciding game was between Dudeney and Buckeye senior Isabelle Boulais. The OSU representative took advantage in the first set after a pivotal tiebreaker win. Dudeney was able to bounce back in the second set with a 6-4 victory. The intensity meter skyrocketed in the third set as the rallies continued, but Dudeney eventually fell, 6-3, for Florida’s second loss of the season.
The Gators’ lined up against No. 16 Washington to cap-off Sunday. The Huskies were in an identical situation to Florida’s, entering the tournament undefeated at 6-0 before dropping two matches in the tournament
It was business as usual for the Florida doubles, but this time they didn’t need tiebreakers as they cruised to an early advantage. In singles, McCartney Kessler dominated Vanessa Wong in two sets while Briggs added a two-set victory of her own to put the Gators up 3-0 and needed just one more point to take the match.
The Huskies would throw some drama into the mix, taking all of the remaining matches to a third set. Nonetheless, sophomore Sara Dahlstrom emerged over Washington Freshman Kelly Leung, giving the Gators their seventh win of the season.
Head coach Roland Thornqvist said there’s plenty of work to do before the conference slate begins.
“We still have a ways to go to become a mature, championship team,” Thornqvist said. “The good news is that we have time to hit on some things that will improve our chances when we start competing in the SEC."
Florida exits the tournament with a 7-2 record and will likely suffer a drop in the rankings. The Gators will have one last tuneup before conference play begins, as they will host Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 26 at Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex
Contact Joshua Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaMorgan37