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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Gators dominate No. 6 South Carolina to open conference play

Florida put together a complete performance that proves their status as a top contender in the SEC

<p>Sam Riffice against USF on May 9, 2021. The Gators shut out South Carolina Friday, 6-0.</p>

Sam Riffice against USF on May 9, 2021. The Gators shut out South Carolina Friday, 6-0.

In just his third collegiate doubles match, freshman Nate Bonetto and teammate Duarte Vale were faced with a tiebreaker and the chance to secure the first point of the match for the Gators. 

The tiebreaker would be the longest the Gators have seen this year, but Bonetto and Vale swatted the racket and traded volleys until the other tandem collapsed. The UF couple came out on top in a 13-11 marathon when the ball finally bounced twice on the green floor. The momentum from winning such a crucial point carried over to the rest of the match as Florida was able to shut out its opponents in dominant fashion.

No. 5 Florida (8-2) faced a worthy foe in No. 6 South Carolina (11-3) to open conference play Friday, silencing the Gamecocks to a 7-0 victory. The domination in Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex is the Gators’ most impressive win of the season and a not-so-subtle reminder that Florida is a national title contender.

Senior Sam Riffice and sophomore Ben Shelton had trouble in their doubles match, dropping a 6-3 contest to juniors Daniel Rodrigues and Beau Pelletier. Senior Andy Andrade and grad student Mattias Siimar were able to flip the script on their court, forcing Bonetto and Vale into the decisive tiebreaker to eventually give the Gators a doubles point advantage. 

Florida refused to relent from that moment, completely overmatching the Gamecocks in the singles battles. Bonetto continued his success with a quick two-set win over Pelletier. The drama was at a minimum as the Gators eased through additional two-set victories from Vale, Riffice, and Abedallah Shelbayh.

With the win already secured, Shelton faced slight resistance in his match against Rodrigues but delivered a 6-3, 6-4 victory as the onslaught continued. Andrade found himself in a third-set tiebreaker after splitting the first two sets but ended up winning, 10-7, as the Gators put finishing touches on the shutout. 

The shut-out win will surely help the Gators in the rankings, as they look to reclaim their preseason No. 1 spot that was taken over by Texas Christian University, the same team that Florida lost to in the opening match of the season. 

In the short-term, the Gators will have another stiff test as they travel to face No. 9 Kentucky in the second conference match of the year. The match will take place at 1 p.m. at Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex in Lexington, Kentucky.

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

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