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Saturday, April 20, 2024

No. 5 Bulldogs narrowly avoid upset against No. 16 Gators

Gators lose both weekly matches after loss to Bulldogs

Florida sophomore Alicia Dudeney reaches for the ball with her racket in the Gators' 4-1 victory against the Michigan Wolverines Wednesday, March 22, 2023.
Florida sophomore Alicia Dudeney reaches for the ball with her racket in the Gators' 4-1 victory against the Michigan Wolverines Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

The Gators traveled to Athens, Georgia, after a disappointing loss Friday against the No. 15 Tennessee Volunteers. 

They were bested, 4-1, in one of their worst losses of the season. Florida looked better Sunday afternoon but was eventually overcome by the Bulldogs. 

The No. 16 Florida Gators (13-6, 7-4 SEC) lost to the Georgia Bulldogs (17-4, 10-1 SEC) 4-1 Sunday afternoon at Magill Tennis Complex. The Gators were neck and neck with the Bulldogs all of Sunday but were barely edged out in a thrilling singles finish. 

The match started with a hard-fought battle in doubles play that saw UGA narrowly defeat the Gators. 

UF senior Carly Briggs and freshman Rachel Gailis — the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 79-ranked doubles pair — fell to No. 50 Bulldogs graduate student Meg Kowalski and sophomore Mell Reasco. The Florida pair stayed within one game until the Bulldogs strung together a couple of impressive games and won the matchup 6-4. 

Florida sophomores Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee teamed up to face UGA senior Ania Hertel and sophomore Dasha Vidmanova. The pair started off cold and quickly trailed 3-1. A bad start didn’t deter the duo; the sophomores stormed back and won the matchup 6-4. 

The score was tied at one, and both teams needed a win on the final court to secure the doubles point. 

Florida head coach Roland Thornqvist made a lineup change and paired senior Emma Shelton with freshman Sophie Williams. 

The freshman paired up with sophomore Emily De Oliveira throughout most of the season, but the tandem has struggled across the last two weeks. They were crushed by Arkansas, 6-1, and lost Friday against Tennessee, 6-0. 

Williams and Shelton looked to make a revival and started off hot against Bulldogs sophomores Mai Nirundorn and Guillermina Grant. The Gator duo gained a quick 3-0 lead but abruptly lost all momentum. They lost six of the next seven games and dropped the doubles point, 6-4. 

The Gators trailed by just one score but fell behind even further with poor performances on two singles courts. 

Almost nothing went De Oliveira’s way in her matchup against No. 125 Kowalski. The UF sophomore couldn’t get anything to fall in the first set and lost 6-0. She stormed back to take the first three games of the second set but lost another six consecutive games to lose 6-3. 

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No. 37-ranked UF junior Sara Dahlstrom — Florida’s top-seeded singles player — was demolished by No. 3 UGA senior Lea Ma. 

Ma swept the first set, 6-0, and gave up only one game in the second; she defeated Dahlstrom 6-1 to clinch the match win. 

Gailis wasn’t ready to give up. The UF freshman dominated the first set versus Hertel and won 6-0. She doubled her efforts and finished the second set with a 6-3 victory to avoid a potential sweep. 

The dual-meet score tallied 3-1, but Florida continued to keep up with the Bulldogs. 

Spee competed in a thrilling three-set battle against Grant. The Florida sophomore won the first set, 6-3, but was completely annihilated, 6-0, in the second set. 

Sunday’s conclusion came down to a final third set. Spee went back and forth with Hertel but eventually lost 7-5. 

The win secured the victory for the Bulldogs and the remaining courts went unfinished. 

No. 45 Briggs nearly extended the Gators’ lead but dropped the second set against No. 9 Vidmanova. The Florida senior won the first set 6-4 and led 5-3 the second set. Vidmanova stormed back and took the set 7-5. The match evened at one apiece before going unfinished. 

No. 86 Dudeney finished tied with No. 56 Reasco before they began a third set. Dudeney won the first set 7-5, and Reasco responded with her own 7-5 second-set victory. The competitors were preparing for the third set until Spee fell on Court 6. 

The Gators have two more matches left in the regular season. Their next matchup will be against the Alabama Crimson Tide at 4 p.m. Friday at the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium. 

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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