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Florida's Emma Shelton hits the ball in the Gators' 4-1 win against the Florida State Seminoles Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.
Florida's Emma Shelton hits the ball in the Gators' 4-1 win against the Florida State Seminoles Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.

Four Gators set up a tight finish as they entered a third set in their singles matchups at Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.

Florida trailed 2-1 and needed to win three of the four games to complete the seemingly insurmountable comeback. 

No. 47-ranked UF senior Carly Briggs lost her first set but forced a third with a dominant 6-0 victory in the second. The senior failed to complete her resurgence and needed her teammates to win out on their respective courts for the Gators to pull out the victory. 

Florida sophomore Emily De Oliveira won her third set. However, the Gators ultimately fell short when UF freshman Rachel Gailis lost to senior Carlota Molina and handed the Wildcats the win. 

The No. 18 Florida Gators (8-4, 3-2 SEC) lost to the No. 68 Kentucky Wildcats (8-6, 2-3 SEC) 4-2 Sunday afternoon at Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex. The Gators started slow and surrendered the doubles point which proved consequential in Sunday’s final outcome. 

Briggs and Gailis — the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 60-ranked doubles pair — made quick work of UK junior Makayla Mills and senior Florencia Urrutia. The Gators pair gave up one game but won 6-1. 

Florida led on both of the other courts, but Kentucky slowly inched closer. 

UF senior Emma Shelton led 3-2 alongside freshman Sophie Williams against Wildcats freshman Zoe Hammond and sophomore Ellie Eades. The duo lost its step and committed several errors to put themselves in an unlikely comeback situation, down 5-3. 

The pair won one game but lost another and fell 6-3 to the Wildcat doubles pair. 

The score was tied 1-1 and both teams needed a win on the final court to secure the doubles point. 

UF sophomores Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee led 3-2 at one point against Kentucky junior Elizabeth Stevens and Molina, but the Wildcats’ duo began their comeback. The pair stole four of the next five games to cap off the 6-4 doubles win and earn their team a 1-0 lead as the singles round began. 

Wildcats senior Maialen Morante extended her team’s lead with a comfortable win versus Shelton on Court 6. The UK senior won 6-2 in the first set and refused to allow a score in the second and won 6-0. 

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The loss was uncharacteristic for Shelton, who held a 10-3 record this year in singles matchups. 

Kentucky led 2-0 but Dudeney finally put a point on the board for the Gators with an impressive singles performance. The sophomore took both sets versus Eades with a 6-2 finish. 

Kentucky seemed likely to extend its lead when Urrutia took the first set versus Briggs, 6-3. However, the Florida senior devastated the Wildcat’s lead with a 6-0 victory to force a third set. The senior couldn’t complete the comeback, though, and fell 6-1 in the final set. 

Florida needed to win out on the other courts to avoid the Southeastern Conference loss. 

De Oliveira competed in a three-set battle against sophomore Lidia Gonzalez. De Oliveira has dominated early in most of her singles matchups this Spring and jumped out of the gate with a 6-3 first-set win. 

Gonzalez rebounded from the loss and defeated the Florida sophomore 6-1 in the second set. 

De Oliveira clutched the final set and won 6-1 despite being moments away from a matchup loss. 

Gailis’ first-set efforts couldn’t manage those of Molina, and she lost 6-3. The UF freshman didn’t give up, though. She won her second set 6-1 to initiate a third set in which she would have her back against the wall early. 

The freshman trailed 4-2 but fought back to nearly even the score. The score was 4-3, and Gailis pushed the score to a deuce but lost the game point, which shifted all momentum. Molina swept Gailis in the final game and secured the victory for her team. 

One Gator went unfinished on the final court. 

Spee fought hard in a back-and-forth matchup against Hammond. Spee grabbed an early lead, and the competitors traded games for the remainder of the first set. The Heemstede, Netherlands, native was able to take the first set, 6-4, but was crushed 6-1 in the second set. 

Spee failed to finish the final set and was up 5-3 against Hammond. 

The Gators will have a highly anticipated matchup against the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines. The match will take place at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville.

Contact Luke Adragna at 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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