Following Florida men’s tennis’ Round of 16 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels, head coach Bryan Shelton said while Florida escaped with the doubles point for the match, maybe losing it would not have been such a bad thing.
“I was almost thinking to myself, well if we lose this doubles point tonight might be a good thing,” Shelton said. “Let our guys know ‘Hey, we're still pretty tough to beat one to six in singles.’”
Shelton faced the reality of this scenario Thursday, as Florida lost the opening doubles point but was unable to come out on top against the Virginia Cavaliers.
The No.7-seeded Cavaliers (26-5, 12-0) defeated Florida (26-3, 12-0) and punched their ticket to the Final Four with a 4-1 victory at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Champaign, Illinois.
Both teams entered the quarterfinal round dominating the field of competition, sweeping their way to an Elite Eight berth.
Florida easily handled New Orleans, Miami and North Carolina while the Cavaliers defeated Fairleigh Dickinson, Virginia Commonwealth and Gators Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina. One team had to give, and UF was the one to do so.
The Gators started strong in doubles play as senior Duarte Vale and freshman Nate Bonetto romped fifth year Gianni Ross and sophomore Jeffrey von der Schulenburg 6-1.
The momentum shifted when Virginia graduate student Bar Botzer and sophomore Chris Rodesch defeated the Florida pair of sophomore sensation Ben Shelton and senior Sam Riffice 6-4.
What ultimately earned the Cavaliers the opening point was a thrilling 7-6 victory produced by senior Ryan Goetz and sophomore Inaki Montes-De La Torre over UF seniors Mattias Siimar and Andy Andrade.
Florida needed four solid performances in singles to salvage its championship hopes. Midway through singles play, rainfall and lightning forced both teams to pause their matches.
Once play resumed, over two hours later, UF secured its first point of the match as Andrade defeated Goetz 6-3 and 6-4. This was the one bright spot in Florida’s play; Virginia dominated the singles court.
Montes-De La Torre put his team up 2-1 by defeating Riffice, the reigning NCAA singles champion, 7-5 and 6-4. Moments later, Ross stomped out Siimar 7-5 and 7-5.
The match-clinching victory came from Schulenburg, as he outlasted Vale in a three-set nail-biter 2-6, 7-6 and 6-3, effectively ending the Gators’ season and championship aspirations.
Shelton and senior Josh Goodger’s sets were unfinished.
Florida now prepares for the NCAA Individual Championships beginning May 23. Riffice and Shelton were selected to compete in both the singles and doubles competitions.
Brenda Bogle is a UF journalism senior with a specialization in sports and media. She joined The Alligator in the Fall of 2021.