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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Florida splits matches in ITA Kick-Off Weekend

Gators fail to clinch Seattle ITA Indoor Championships berth with loss to Texas A&M.

Gators women's tennis players Rachel Gailis and Bente Spee high-five during the Gators' match against the Texas A&M Aggies Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 / UAA Communications photo by Mario Terrana.
Gators women's tennis players Rachel Gailis and Bente Spee high-five during the Gators' match against the Texas A&M Aggies Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 / UAA Communications photo by Mario Terrana.

The Gators dominated in their first match of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-Off Weekend. However, they were defeated in the final round and failed to secure a spot in the ITA Indoor Championships. 

The No. 20 Florida Gators (2-1) came into the ITA Kickoff Weekend looking to repeat their dominant performance in South Florida. They were joined by three teams – the Arizona Wildcats, the Florida Atlantic Owls and the Texas A&M Aggies. 

Their first match of the tournament was scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m. Before they could start, the match was moved three hours earlier to avoid thunderstorms. 

There was optimism the doubles round could happen, but thunderous skies crept in early. Florida’s match was postponed to Sunday after more than a dozen delays.

Sunday saw more postponements until the Gators began play against Arizona (3-1) late into the evening. 

The matchup began with doubles action. The No. 58-ranked pair – Florida freshman Rachel Gailis and sophomore Bente Spee – faced off against Arizona freshman Reece Carter and senior Kayla Wilkins. The pair swiftly defeated the Wildcats, 6-1. 

The Gators turned their attention to senior Carly Briggs and sophomore Alicia Dudeney, needing only one more doubles victory.

The pair went back and forth against Arizona sophomore Parker Fry and graduate student Salma Ziouti. The score was tied, 2-2, until the Florida duo finished strong and took four consecutive games to win 6-2 and steal the doubles point. 

The Gators capitalized off their doubles point and swept the singles.

Junior Sara Dahlstrom defeated Carter in two sets, 6-1, 6-0, to earn Florida its first singles point. 

The Gators then turned to Gailis, who battled hard against Fry. The opponents matched each other’s wins until Gailis pulled away to claim the first set 6-4, She won the second set, 6-1, to claim a match victory. 

Briggs’ dominant performance secured the Gators’ position in Monday’s regional title matchup. Briggs opened the match with a 6-0 first-set win and followed with a 6-2 second-set effort.

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Florida brought out the broomsticks in its 4-0 victory over Arizona. 

The Gators matched up with No. 4-ranked Texas A&M (5-0) Monday.

Florida freshman Sophie Williams and senior Emma Shelton faced off against Aggies freshman Mia Kupres and sophomore Gianna Pielet in the doubles round. 

Shelton and Williams were sluggish to start. They quickly found themselves down 3-1 and were unable to recover, losing 6-4. 

The Aggies needed one more win to clinch the doubles point. 

Dudeney and Briggs battled against Texas A&M sophomore Mary Stoiana and senior Carson Branstine. They were quickly tied at 2-2 and soon trailed 5-4. Branstine and Stoiana stole the final game to win 6-4 and earn the doubles point for the Aggies.

Dahlstrom captured the Gators’ first singles-match victory against No. 51-ranked graduate student Jayci Goldsmith. The Stockholm, Sweden, native won the first set 6-1 before decisively taking the second. Dahlstrom tied the match at 1-1. 

Dudeney and freshman Anastasia Sysoeva followed Dahlstrom’s effort with two Florida losses.

Dudeney was edged out by Branstine in a tiebreaker game, 7-6 (8), and lost the second set 6-4. No. 63-ranked Sysoeva was no match for Aggies graduate student Salma Ewing; she lost both sets, 6-4, 6-1.

Florida sophomore Emily De Oliveira opened her match with a 6-0 sweep. She squeaked out a 7-6 (7) win in her second set after being tied 3-3 early.

The Aggies needed one more victory, which they earned on court one from No. 9-ranked Stoiana against Briggs. Stoiana won the first set 6-2, but Briggs bounced back in the second, 3-6. 

Briggs dropped the final set, 6-2, finalizing the Gators’ 4-2 loss. This was Florida’s first loss of the season.

This was an important learning opportunity for the team early on in the season, said UF head coach Roland Thornqvist. 

“There’s no question we’re just as talented,” Thornqvist said. ”When we have opportunities to close these high-ranked teams out, we have to learn and take them.” 

The Gators will return back to Texas at the same facility to face the Baylor Bears at 2 p.m. Sunday. 

Contact Luke Adragna at ladragna@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @Iukeadrag.

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Luke Adragna

Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.


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