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Thursday, June 01, 2023

All bark no bite: Gators dominate Bulldogs in road matchup

Gators won first matchup in slate of Mississippi-hosted road games

Florida sophomores Bente Spee and Alicia Dudeney celebrate during their doubles match in the Gators' win against the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines Wednesday, March 22, 2023.
Florida sophomores Bente Spee and Alicia Dudeney celebrate during their doubles match in the Gators' win against the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

The Gators had lofty expectations against a Southeastern Conference opponent that was yet to win a conference game before Friday’s matchup. 

Mississippi State held a 10-3 home record that was tarnished by impressive performances from Florida sophomores Alicia Dudeney and Emily De Oliveira.

Dudeney earned her sixth consecutive straight-sets victory in two 6-3 sets. De Oliveira won her singles matchup and improved her doubles record alongside freshman Sophie Williams to 5-0. 

The No. 19 Florida Gators (10-4, 4-2 SEC) defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs (10-8, 0-7 SEC) 5-2 Friday evening at A.J. Pitts Outdoor Tennis Centre. The Gators dominated doubles play and refused to forfeit their lead for the entire match.

Florida sophomores Bente Spee and Dudeney faced Bulldogs freshman Dharani Niroshan and graduate student Emmanouela Antonaki. The Gator pair barely broke a sweat and found themselves up 5-0. They gave up just one game and defeated the Bulldogs 6-1. 

De Oliveira and Williams hammered the nail in the coffin and secured the doubles point with a 6-3 victory against Mississippi State senior Alexandra Mikhailuk and freshman Sydney Hrehor. The pair earned a 4-1 lead that dwindled to just one with impressive play by the Bulldogs. 

However, the Florida duo rebounded and took the final two games. 

De Oliveira and Williams improved their doubles record to an impressive 5-0 and clinched the doubles point for the fourth time this Spring. 

Florida senior Carly Briggs and freshman Rachel Gailis went unfinished in the pair’s matchup versus graduate students Gia Cohen and Maddie Bemisderfer. The competitors exchanged game for game and abruptly ended with a 4-4 tally. 

UF’s chances of victory boosted tremendously with the doubles point. The Gators were 8-1 before Friday when the team took the match’s first point, and they proved why in singles play. 

Florida junior Sara Dahlstrom — the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 42nd ranked singles player — faced Antonaki in a lopsided matchup. In what was expected to be a swift victory for Dahlstrom, Antonaki breezed through the junior and won in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3. The win evened the teams’ scores, but the Gators quickly bounced back. 

De Oliveira faced No. 117-ranked Bulldogs sophomore Maria Rizzolo. De Oliveira ran through the sophomore and convincingly won the first set, 6-1. Rizzolo recovered in the second set and tied the score at four apiece, but De Oliveira avoided a third set and took the set’s final two games. 

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Briggs faced off against Cohen and won in decisive fashion. The senior won both sets 6-3 and propelled Florida to a 3-1 lead. 

Dudeney stepped up to the plate and looked to clinch the match against MSU’s Mikhailuk. The United Kingdom native took the first set, 6-3, and cashed in her sixth consecutive straight-sets victory with a 6-3 second set. 

The victory secured the dual-match win for Florida, but the teams mutually agreed to continue play on the other courts. 

Gailis went against Niroshan on Court 4. The Bulldogs freshman jumped out of the gate with a 3-1 lead and took the first set, 6-4, after a slight resurgence from Gailis. She fended off Gailis’ last-ditch efforts and won 7-6.

Spee competed against Bulldogs sophomore Emily Surcey in a performance that appeared one-sided at times. Surcey gained an early lead and grabbed the first set, 6-3. 

The Florida sophomore responded with a dominant 6-1 second set in which she appeared to be in total control. The win initiated a third set, and Spee overcame an early deficit with a 6-4 third-set victory.

The Gators will wrap up their short road stint and travel two hours north to Oxford, Mississippi, to face the Ole Miss Rebels at 2 p.m. Sunday at Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. 

Contact Luke Adragna at Follow him on Twitter @lukeadrag.

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Luke Adragna

Luke Adragna is a UF journalism junior and The Alligator's baseball beat reporter for the summer. In his free time, he obsesses over his son (cat) named Pete, buys way too many legos and completes the NYT's daily mini in fewer than 60 seconds.  

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