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Friday, January 27, 2023

Gators sputter out after the ITA All-American prequalifying round

Florida’s inexperience proves too much to overcome as it fails to make a deep tournament run

<p>Florida freshman Rachel Gailis at the ITA All-American Championships. Photo courtesy of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.</p>

Florida freshman Rachel Gailis at the ITA All-American Championships. Photo courtesy of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

The Gators women’s tennis team traveled to Cary, North Carolina for the ITA All-American Championships Oct. 1-4. The tournament was initially dominated by Florida, but ultimately it failed to push deep into the main draw.

Day one opened the prequalifying round, where sophomore Alicia Dudeney got the action started for the Gators, taking on Marshall sophomore Emma Vanderheyden. Dudeny entered the fall season ranked No. 119 in the ITA rankings, and wasted no time displaying why. She dominated from the start, quickly winning set one, 6-4. Dudeney wasted even less time in set two, completing the sweep, 6-2. The victory matched her up against Oregon sophomore Uxia Martinez in day two of the contest.

Freshman Rachel Gailis also took the court on day one against Butler Junior Natalie Boesing, earning her first victory for Florida. Gailis established her presence early with a 6-4 victory in set one. She continued to impress by completing the sweep with a 6-2 victory in the second set. Her dominant performance earned her a matchup against UC Santa Barbara junior Camille Kiss.

The Gators began day two the same as the first, with yet another stellar performance by Dudeney. In her first match against Martinez, Dudeney jumped out to an early lead, taking set one, 6-1. Set two saw much of the same, as Dudeney completed the sweep, 6-2. She was then poised for her second match of the day against Southern Methodist senior Hadley Doyle. 

Dudeney remained undefeated in her prequalifying weekend with a decisive victory over Doyle. 

Her dominance never faltered as she claimed set one, 6-3. Dudeney refused to give her opponent any confidence and completed her third sweep of the tournament, 6-1.

Elsewhere in the consolation bracket, in an Southeastern Conference grudge match, senior Emma Shelton took on Mississippi State graduate student Gia Cohen. Shelton sought to establish herself early, quickly running away with a 6-1 set one win. Cohen would respond, however, grabbing set two with a momentous 6-2 victory. Shelton rose to the challenge and declared match victory in set three, 6-3.

Day three of the tournament marked the beginning of the qualifying rounds, where freshman Anastasia Sysoeva earned her first victory as a Gator. She faced off against Wake Forest junior Casie Wooten. Sysoeva showed no signs of fear against the No. 86 ITA ranked player, as she took set one with a convincing 6-2 score. Knowing the task at hand, Sysoeva remained unrelenting and completed the sweep, 6-4. By claiming the match over Wooten, she advanced to play North Carolina senior Anika Yarlagadda on day four.

Dudeney continued her campaign in the round of 64 of the qualifying draw against North Carolina State junior Amelia Rajecki. With her opponent effectively taking set one, 6-2, Dudeney hoped to respond and prevent the sweep. However, she was unable to and fell 6-1 in set two, ending her time in the singles tournament.

Florida’s doubles team also made its tournament debut in the round of 64, headed by Dudeney and sophomore Bente Spee. The pair faced off against Texas Tech junior Olivia Peet and sophomore Avelina Sayfetdinova. The Gators faced little opposition, taking the match by a score of 8-4.

The duo’s second match of the day, in the round of 32, pitted them against Louisiana State junior Kylie Collins and senior Safiya Carrington. The match was much tighter than the first, but the Gators still earned the win, 8-6.

Gailis and senior Carly Briggs also earned their first of two wins in their doubles introduction against North Carolina junior Fiona Crawley and senior Anika Yarlagadda. The partners would prevail in the round of 64 to the tune of 8-5. Then, in the round of 32, they battled Wisconsin freshmen Alina Mukhortova and Maria Sholokhova. Gailis and Briggs proved formidable with a decisive 8-4 win.

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Day four was plagued by underwhelming performances, resulting in the end of UF’s run in the Tarheel State.

In the singles draw, Sysoeva fell in the round of 32 to Yarlagadda. The Gators freshman started out slow and dropped set one, 6-4. She would rally, however, delivering a strong performance in set two, 6-1. Sysoeva’s lack of collegiate experience proved to be her downfall, as she failed to complete the comeback, losing a tight set three, 7-6.

Concurrently, both of Florida’s doubles teams were both eliminated in the round of 16.

Briggs and Gailis were the first to fall, losing a tight match to Michigan juniors Kari Miller and Jaeden Brown, 8-5. Meanwhile, Dudeney and Spee were unable to preserve Florida’s championship hopes, falling to California State senior Yinglak Jittakoat and sophomore Matilde Magrini, 8-6.

The Gators will now head to South Carolina, where they will compete in the Florence 25k. The six-day event is set to begin Oct. 10.

Contact Zachary Curtin at zcuritn@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @zachary_curtin.

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Zachary Curtin

Zach is a freshman sports journalism major and a sports reporter for the Alligator. When he is not covering UF sports he is often being disappointed by Philadelphia sports teams.


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