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Thursday, April 18, 2024

No. 16 Gators fall apart in loss to No. 15 Volunteers

Florida went down early and failed to fight back in SEC matchup

Freshman Rachel Gailis serves the ball in the Gators' 4-1 victory against the Michigan Wolverines Wednesday, March 22, 2023.
Freshman Rachel Gailis serves the ball in the Gators' 4-1 victory against the Michigan Wolverines Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

The Gators have remained competitors all season long, even in losses. 

The then-ranked No. 19 Florida Gators defeated the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines March 22, which triggered a five-game win streak. 

Florida carried its momentum into Friday’s matchup versus the Volunteers, but something looked off right from the jump. Two Gators doubles pairs experienced horrific losses, and the team failed to pick up any of its former dominance in Friday’s loss to Tennessee. 

No. 16 Florida 13-5, 7-3 SEC) suffered one of its worst performances of the season and lost to the No. 15 Tennessee Volunteers (15-4, 8-2 SEC) 4-1 Friday evening at Barksdale Stadium. The Gators got off to a rough start in doubles and began to surge late; they eventually succumbed to the opposing team’s blows.

Florida sophomore Emily De Oliveira and freshman Sophie Williams were the first Gators duo to fall. They were swept by Volunteers junior Eleanora Molinaro and fifth-year Daria Kuczer. 

The doubles loss marked De Oliveira and Williams’ second defeat together in a row and all season. They were 7-1 before Friday.  

UF senior Carly Briggs and freshman Rachel Gailis — the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 79-ranked doubles pair — handed the Volunteers the doubles point in a loss to Tennessee junior Lauren Anzalotta and freshman Catherine Aulia.

The pair won only one game and fell to the Volunteers’ duo 6-1. 

No. 53-ranked Florida sophomores Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee went unfinished against No. 36-ranked Volunteers fifth-year Rebeka Mertena and junior Esther Adeshina. The pair neared defeat and exited the court down 4-2 when Tennessee secured the doubles point. 

The Gators tried to claw back from their early deficit but suffered lackluster performances from the bottom half of the roster. 

De Oliveira experienced one of her worst losses of the season in a battle against Adeshina. The Florida sophomore trailed 4-1 early in the first set and failed to mount any sort of comeback attempt. She dropped the first set, 6-3, and performed similarly in the second set and lost 6-2. 

Spee was the next Gator to reach a conclusion when she lost in straight sets to Anzalotta. The Volunteers junior held a lead from the opening point and never let up. Anzalotta won 6-1, 6-2, and put Tennessee up 3-0 to further confirm the lopsided narrative. 

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Gailis wouldn’t back down without a fight. The Florida freshman has performed well as of late and carried her momentum into Friday’s matchup in her defeat of Aulia. She won the first set 6-2 and closed with a 6-3 second-set performance to avoid the sweep. 

No. 36-ranked Kuczer sent the Gators home when she defeated No. 86 Dudeney in the Court 3 matchup. Dudeney dropped the first set 6-3 but stayed in the match with last-ditch efforts to try and force a third set. She lost 7-5, which marked the final result in Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Volunteers. 

No. 37-ranked UF junior Sara Dahlstrom — Florida’s top-seeded singles player — went unfinished against Volunteers No. 38-ranked sophomore Elza Tomase. 

The Tennessee sophomore won 6-4 in the first set, and the match finished tied at five apiece in the second set. 

No. 45-ranked Briggs led in the third set of her battle with No. 24 Mertena. Briggs dropped the first set 6-4 but forced a third set with a 6-2 second-set win. She led 3-2 in the final set before the Volunteers achieved victory. 

The Gators will finish their slate of games for the week with a matchup against the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs. The match will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday at Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia. 

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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