A national championship is obviously the season goal for any collegiate tennis team. However, one fixture in the season provides teams with the select opportunity to grab some mid-season hardware.
The Florida men’s and women’s tennis teams were both able to advance to the ITA National Indoor Championships this past weekend. The teams won two games apiece in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
The men’s team hosted Princeton Saturday, but the Tigers were no match for the No. 3 Gators. Florida lost its first doubles match, but freshman Nate Bonetto and senior Lukas Greif tied things up with a 6-2 win. Sophomore Ben Shelton and senior Sam Riffice followed suit, delivering UF the doubles point with a 6-4 triumph.
The Gators racked up three more points in singles with wins from Riffice, Shelton, and junior Will Grant, as Florida cruised to a 4-0 victory. After a similarly dominant performance from Florida State over UNC Wilmington, a match-up between fierce rivals awaited in the championship game.
The No. 19 women’s team eased through its first match against Florida International. Florida cruised to an easy point in doubles before sophomore Emma Shelton, freshman Bente Spee, and senior Sydney Berlin finished things off in singles. The Gators dropped just one point in their 4-1 victory.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 18 FSU had just won a close 4-3 match against Illinois, which would assure another championship match between the in-state foes.
Despite the enticing prospect of both teams getting an opportunity to strike down their rivals in matches with plenty on the line, both Gators teams ended up making easy work of the Seminoles Sunday.
The men did start slow in their match, however, dropping the doubles point despite another win from Ben and Riffice. The Gators’ victory was never in doubt as Bonetto, Shelbayh, and senior Andy Andrade quickly wrapped up their singles opponents in two sets. The script was flipped and Florida led 3-1, just one point from victory.
It wasn’t a long wait, as senior Duarte Vale won two consecutive sets after dropping the first to defeat FSU’s Andreja Petrovic. Neither Ben nor Rifficehad to finish their matches with the victory clinched.
The women had an easy time in their match with Florida State, in large part to the Seminoles missing a significant number of players. Florida State only put out two doubles pairs, so despite one loss from the Gators, a 7-5 win from Spee and freshman Alicia Dudeney was enough for Florida to gain the doubles point.
FSU also failed to put out six players in singles, forfeiting the sixth match and giving Florida a 2-0 lead. All it took to finish the job were two easy victories from Emma and senior Marlee Zein, as the Gators stayed undefeated with a 4-0 shutout win.
With the triumphs, both teams advance to the ITA National Indoor Championships. The women will play in Madison, Wisconsin, Feb. 11-14, while the men will play in Seattle, Washington, Feb. 18-21.
Before that event, the women’s team will have a home tune-up Thursday against Old Dominion. Then, both teams travel to Lake Nona, Florida, for Saturday rematches against Florida State.
Contact Joshua Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaMorgan37