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<p>Florida senior Marlee Zein competes in a match against Central Florida on Feb. 9, 2021. The Gators overcame their matchup Friday night against the Kentucky Wildcats</p>

Florida senior Marlee Zein competes in a match against Central Florida on Feb. 9, 2021. The Gators overcame their matchup Friday night against the Kentucky Wildcats

Graduate student McCartney Kessler became the latest Gator to gather 100 career singles wins Friday night. Years of practice and commitment finally paid off for the Florida women’s tennis captain after the monumental victory. 

After moving indoors due to inclement weather, No. 16 Florida earned a hard-fought win over No. 63 Kentucky. 

After moving indoors due to inclement weather, the  No. 63 Kentucky Wildcats (12-9, 0-8 SEC) fell to the No. 16 Florida Gators (15-4, 7-2 SEC), 5-2 Friday night. Riveting performances from Kessler and the doubles squads boosted the Gators forward for their seventh consecutive victory.

The Wildcats quickly started a battle with Florida in the doubles competition.

Kentucky tandem made up of sophomore Fiona Arrese and freshman Ellie Eades defeated Kessler and senior Marlee Zein with ease, 6-4. Coming to Florida’s aid, the No. 34 freshman duo of Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee tied the doubles score. Defeating senior Carla Girbau and freshman Lidia Gonzalez 6-3.

However, there was a racket-to-racket contest going down on court three. Florida’s third pair, juniors Carly Briggs and Emma Shelton, failed to outlast the junior pair of Carlota Molina and Florencia Urrutia in the tiebreaker, losing 7-6(7).

The Wildcats took the doubles portion, but the Gators refused to go down without a whimper.

Kessler made a smooth transition into singles play, shutting out Urrutia with ease in the first set, 6-0. Although Urrutia clawed her way back, Kessler claimed her eleventh-consecutive singles win and her 100th career singles victory, 7-5.

Over on court four, Dudeney fell behind in the first set but quickly recovered, claiming a 6-4 set win. After the slight trip, she continued to roll through Arrese, 6-1 to claim the second point for Florida.

Things didn’t come as easy for No. 58 Zein. She fell 4-6 in the first set but pressured Molina into a 6-3 win in the second. However, Zein could not keep up with her opponent and gave Kentucky their first, and only, singles win.

Briggs struggled in the first set and practically handed it to senior Carla Girbau. She quickly evened the score once she claimed the second set 6-2. However, Girbau was not going to let her go easily. In a 4-4 tied third set, it seemed to be anyone's game. But Briggs broke through and won the game 6-4.

Compared to Zein and Briggs’ matches, sophomore Sara Dahlstrom clinched the game 6-2, 6-3 without even blinking an eye.

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The last one standing was Shelton over at court six, who executed a massive comeback. She fell against junior Maialen Morante in a tight first set, losing 7-6, but quickly came back in the second to win 6-4. A 10-point tiebreaker decided the third set, which Shelton won 10-6.

The Gators are back on the road to Nashville, Tennessee, for a matchup against No. 41 Vanderbilt. The action returns on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Contact Vanessa Sanchez at Follow her on Twitter @_vanessa_sanch.

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