Florida senior Emma Shelton was out of action for nearly a month.
Friday was her birthday, and head coach Roland Thornqvist made sure Shelton stepped foot on the court.
Shelton battled in both doubles and singles play, but her dominant 6-3, 6-1 victory in singles increased Florida’s lead and secured the match point for her team.
The No. 18 Florida Gators (8-3, 3-1 SEC) defeated the No. 23 Vanderbilt Commodores (8-6, 2-3 SEC) 6-1 Friday evening at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville. Florida jumped out the gate with an early lead from doubles and never looked back.
UF senior Carly Briggs and freshman Rachel Gailis — the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 60-ranked doubles pair — faced off against sophomore Celia-Belle Mohr and senior Marcella Cruz.
The Gator pair looked unbeatable to begin the frame and took a quick 3-0 lead. The Commodore duo gradually fought back to secure two games but the match was far from over.
Florida sophomores Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee matched up against senior Anna Ross and junior Holly Staff on Court 1.
The Gator duo led the opposing Commodores early on and continued their dominance throughout the match. They earned a 5-2 lead and positioned themselves to earn a victory as Briggs and Gailis also faced their match point.
Florida’s pairs simultaneously forced faulty returns that went inches out of bounds. The Gators secured the doubles point by taking the first two matches to conclude.
UF sophomore Emily De Oliveira and freshman Sophie Williams went unfinished on Court 3. The pair led 2-1 against junior Anessa Lee and freshman Bridget Stammel but finished down 3-4 when their teammates secured the doubles point.
Briggs added onto Florida’s lead with a victory in singles play. She put on a clinic against Stammel in the first set and defeated the freshman 6-1. She carried her momentum into the second set and earned a 6-2 second-set victory to put UF on top 2-0.
Dudeney quickly won four games to give herself a comfortable lead and never looked back. She won the first set, 6-2, and trounced Staff, 6-0, in the second.
Florida led 3-0 and needed one more singles victory to secure the Southeastern Conference win.
Shelton faced off against senior Dasha Kourkina. Shelton had the opportunity to play on her birthday and came out victorious. She won 6-3 in the first set and ramped up in the second to win 6-1.
The victory secured the dual-match win for Florida, but the teams mutually agreed to continue play on the other courts.
No. 119-ranked Florida junior Sara Dahlstrom trailed No. 48 Mohr on Court 1. She lost 6-2 the first set but appeared completely unphased. The Stockholm, Sweden, native bounced back and won the second set 6-3; She tightened up in the final set to win 10-4.
Gailis lost her singles match in three thrilling sets versus Lee. The Vanderbilt junior opened the matchup with a tight 7-6 first-set victory. Gailis rebounded and won 6-3 in the second set but fell to Lee 8-10 in the final set.
Spee battled hard against Cruz on Court 5. The competitors went back and forth and exchanged points until the score sat at five apiece. She lost her step and dropped the first set, 7-5.
Spee recovered from the first-set loss and defeated Cruz 6-4 in the second. The victory initiated a final set in which Spee secured a 10-8 victory.
The Gators’ will continue SEC play in their next matchup against the No. 68 Kentucky Wildcats at 12 p.m. Sunday at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville.
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.