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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Florida stays undefeated in conference play with win over Ole Miss

The Gators stayed hot by extending their win streak to eight against yet another solid opponent

Sophomore Ben Shelton and senior Sam Riffice during a matchup with Ole Miss Friday
Sophomore Ben Shelton and senior Sam Riffice during a matchup with Ole Miss Friday

Florida men’s tennis came into Friday night as the absolute favorites over the visiting the Ole Miss Rebels. 

Yet, when the doubles segment of the Friday night battle was underway, adversity set in.

Senior Sam Riffice and sophomore Ben Shelton met the No. 2 doubles pairing of junior Lukas Engelhardt and senior Finn Reynolds on court one and went racket-for-racket till the bitter end.

Despite numerous individual achievements for both members of the UF duo, they are currently unranked as a doubles team after starting off the season with a 4-5 record. 

However, they have been brilliant together in Florida’s recent eight-game win streak which continued Friday night with an impressive 6-3 victory, allowing Florida to swiftly grab the doubles point on their way to another convincing victory. 

No. 1 Florida (13-2) stayed undefeated in conference play with a 6-1 match win over No. 31 Ole Miss (11-6). The Gators add on to their win streak dating back to their matchup with No. 7 Virginia Feb. 19. 

Shelton and Riffice picked up the crucial win on court one to put the Gators ahead early in doubles, while the No. 54 pair of Andy Andrade and Matthias Siimar clinched the doubles point with a 6-3 win of their own. The triumph made it the Gators’ eighth straight match in which they have won the doubles portion. 

The Gators immediately added on another point after Abedallah Shelbayh took down No. 104 Jan Soren Hain in a painless two sets, 6-1, 6-3. Shelbayh, who has primarily served as a doubles player for the Gators this season, improved to 4-0 on the year in singles play. Senior Josh Goodger put the Gators within a point of victory with a two-set win of his own against Rebels senior Simon Junk. 

Ole Miss was able to tack a point after junior Lukas Engelhardt downed No. 93 Andrade in a first set tiebreaker before putting him away with a 6-3 win in the second set. 

The final three matches each were headed to a third set. No. 109 Duarte Vale won the first set 6-2 before falling 4-6 in the second set, while No. 56 Riffice had the exact opposite results in his clash against senior Finn Reynolds. 

Meanwhile, Shelton had split the first two sets in a marquee matchup against No. 21 Nikola Slavic. Shelton used his powerful serve to win the first set 6-3, but a number of unforced errors in the second set allowed Slavis back into the match. However, the top player in the country came out strong in the third set, recording a 6-3 win and clinching the overall match for the Gators. 

Vale and Riffice would follow suit by winning their third sets, as the Gators pushed the final score to 6-1. 

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The Gators’ next challenge comes Sunday against No. 28 Mississippi State at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex. Doubles play starts off  at 1 p.m. following the lineup announcements. 

Contact Joshua Morgan at jmorgan2@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaMorgan37

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