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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Florida takes down Vanderbilt behind stellar performances from Marlee Zein

Gators women’s tennis improves in doubles and makes work of Commodore singles

<p>Florida senior Marlee Zein on the court during a match against UCF on Feb. 9, 2021. The No. 16 Gators surpassed Vanderbilt on the road Sunday, 6-1.</p>

Florida senior Marlee Zein on the court during a match against UCF on Feb. 9, 2021. The No. 16 Gators surpassed Vanderbilt on the road Sunday, 6-1.

Florida senior Marlee Zein competed in one of the most compelling matches of the day, the grand finale. 

All eyes were on Zein as she regained her composure after dropping the first set to Vanderbilt sophomore Holly Staff, 6-2. 

The Sugar Land, Texas, native wanted to go down swinging. 

Zein crawled back to win the second set decisively, never giving Staff a chance to catch her breath and shutting out the set, 6-0. The match was as good as over from then on, and the UF senior wrapped things up, 6-4 in the third set for the final point of the Gators victory.

The No. 16 Florida women’s team (16-4, 8-2 SEC) gained its eighth-consecutive win over the No. 41 Vanderbilt Commodores (11-7, 3-6) Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee. Captivating performances by the Gators kept the match lively and the crowd’s attention at all times. 

Florida dropped the ball in the past two matches when it comes to the doubles point, but was able to turn the tide against Vanderbilt. 

The Commodores started junior Dasha Kourkina and graduate student MaryAnn Rompf, who dominated their entire set against Florida sophomore Sara Dahlstrom and junior Emma Shelton. They took down the Gator duo with an easy 6-0 win. 

However, the Gators were ready to finally make a comeback when it came to doubles. 

Graduate student McCartney Kessler and Zein evened out the doubles score on court one. The Gator tandem retaliated quickly against Vanderbilt junior Anna Ross and sophomore Anessa Lee by a score of 6-2. 

Everyone shifted focus to the neighboring court, where Florida’s freshman duo of Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee were competing against Vanderbilt junior Marcella Cruz and Staff. The ranked Gators jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but the Commodores responded and created a 4-4 deadlock. 

Stuck in the back-and-forth struggle, Dudeney and Spee broke free, shifting the momentum and claiming the match, 6-4, and the doubles point for the Gators. 

Florida opened up the singles competition with two commanding victories. 

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After struggling in doubles, Dahlstrom performed a stellar clean sweep over Vanderbilt freshman Amy Stevens, 6-0 in both sets. Almost right after, Kessler gained another ranked win over No. 72 Lee in a 6-0, 6-2 match, her 12th-consecutive win overall. 

However, things were not as smooth for Dudeney over on court four. 

In the first set, Dudney was in a 4-4 tie with Cruz. The Gators only needed one more point to clinch the team match, and Dudney delivered, 6-4, 6-1. The Hove, United Kingdom, native fought to gain the upper hand and dominated in the second set.

The clean sweep was taken from underneath Florida when Shelton fell to Commodores junior Dasha Jourkina 6-4, 6-2. Regardless, UF did not let Vanderbilt accumulate any more wins. 

The last two matches left, everyone on the edge of their seats. 

Briggs had trouble finding her footing against graduate student Yufei Long. Almost dropping the first set in a tight 7-5 win. However, the Calhoun, Georgia, native regained her stature and finished the match 6-3. Zein executed her skill set to put a bow on  Florida’s Sunday afternoon.

The Gators gained their eighth-consecutive win and arrived back in Gainesville after another successful weekend. Florida returns to action at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex Friday for a battle with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Contact Vanessa Sanchez at Follow her on Twitter @_vanessa_sanch.

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