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Saturday, May 25, 2024

No. 24 Gators fall to No. 2 Aggies in nail-biting finish

Gators narrowly lose to heavily-favored Aggies despite an unreflective final score.

Florida freshman Sophie Williams serves the ball in a 4-1 victory against the Florida State Seminoles, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023
Florida freshman Sophie Williams serves the ball in a 4-1 victory against the Florida State Seminoles, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023

Florida freshman Sophie Williams and sophomore Emily De Oliveira neared defeat against Aggies freshman Mia Kupres and sophomore Gianna Pielet. The Texas A&M pair led 6-5 and were ahead 40 to love. 

The Gator duo defended four consecutive break points and tied the score 6-6, but, once again, found themselves down in the final tiebreaker game, 3-1. Williams and De Oliveira then took a point, then another, then another.  

The UF pair led 7-6 in the final game and won the final point to complete the comeback. The crowd erupted as Florida teammates stormed Court 3 to join arms with Williams and De Oliveira after they achieved the 7-6(6) win to secure the doubles point. 

The win was huge for the Gators but failed to push Florida to victory. 

The No. 24 Florida Gators (5-3, 0-2 SEC) fell to the No. 2 Texas A&M Aggies (12-1, 2-0 SEC) 5-2 Friday evening. The loss marked the Gators’ second consecutive loss and second loss versus a top-25 Intercollegiate Tennis Association-ranked opponent this season. 

Friday’s teams have an extensive history against one another. UF was 9-6 versus TAMU and dropped the last three matchups. The Gators most recent loss occurred earlier this season at the Hawkins Indoor Facility in Waco, Texas, where Florida lost 4-2. 

Florida sophomores Bente Spee and Alicia Dudeney paired up to face Aggies senior Carson Branstine and sophomore Mary Stoina. 

The Texas A&M pair – ranked No. 10 by the ITA – had yet to lose a single match this Spring. They commanded an early 3-0 lead and shut out the Gator pair, 6-0. The victory improved the pairs’ record to 8-0. 

The Gators saw themselves in a back-and-forth battle on Court 2. 

UF freshman Rachel Gailis paired with senior Carly Briggs for the first time in a dual match this season. They faced the No. 34 doubles pair of graduate students Salma Ewing and Jayci Goldsmith. 

The teams exchanged games early on. 

The score was tied, 2-2, until Gailis and Briggs took a 4-2 lead. The Aggies fought back to tie the score 5-5, but were narrowly bested by the Gators, 7-5. The win set up Williams and De Oliveira’s thrilling 7-6(6) victory. 

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Texas A&M attempted to fight back from an unprecedented early deficit as singles play began. 

The first singles matchup conclusion occurred on Court 5. De Oliveira faced Goldsmith and looked shaky from the jump. She dropped her first set 6-2 and was seemingly no match against the Aggie. The sophomore dropped the second, 6-1. 

The singles loss marked the third defeat of De Oliveira’s sophomore campaign. She now holds a 16-3 record on the season. 

Gailis earned back the Gators’ lead in her battle with No. 121-ranked Kupres. She won her first set 6-2 and led big in the second until a sudden stoppage of play. 

Kupres, down 5-0, stretched out for a well-hit ball by Gailis and came up hobbling. The Aggies freshman limped back to the bench and was unable to continue play, which gave Gailis the victory. 

Florida retained its previous lead but didn’t preserve it for long.  

Spee was downed by No. 68 TAMU freshman Daria Smetannikov by a score of 2-6, 6-7(6). The Florida sophomore performed poorly the first set and fought hard the second, but couldn’t extend the match in the tiebreaker loss. 

No. 83 Dahlstrom lost shortly after against No. 37 Branstine. She dropped the first set 6-3 and won the second 6-4. Dahlstrom fell apart, though, in the final set and lost 6-3. 

The Aggies needed one more win to secure the victory and looked to No. 9 Stoina on Court 1 to do so. 

Stoina faced No. 61 Briggs. The Gators senior fought well despite being the heavy underdog, but she fell 7-6 in tiebreaker games both sets.  

The win secured the Aggies second victory over the Gators this season and improved the teams record to 12-1.  

Ewing was the only Aggie yet to finish, and she helped extend her team’s lead with a victory against Dudeney in three sets. She won 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. 

The Gators will attempt to recover from the loss as they resume play at 1 p.m. Sunday against the No. 34 Louisiana State Tigers at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.

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

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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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