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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Florida opens NCAA tournament with shutout victory

Gators swept Ospreys behind Carly Briggs’ stellar performance

Florida senior Carly Briggs stands on the court during the Gators' match against the Pepperdine Waves Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.
Florida senior Carly Briggs stands on the court during the Gators' match against the Pepperdine Waves Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

Friday’s matchup saw all seven Gators put on a masterful performance but was headlined by dominant victories from Florida senior Carly Briggs. 

The senior had her name written all over the win. She opened the matchup with a doubles win alongside freshman Rachel Gailis and continued her reign throughout singles play to help the Gators soar above the Ospreys. 

The No. 16 Florida Gators (17-7, 9-4 SEC) defeated the No. 75 North Florida Ospreys (18-7, 7-1 ASUN) 4-0 Friday afternoon at Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex to advance to the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. Florida rushed out the gates with an overall phenomenal show marked by a couple of key individual performances. 

UF’s Briggs and Gailis — the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 67-ranked doubles pair — started the Gators’ day strong. They put on a clinic against Ospreys graduate student Kendall Nash and sophomore Isabel Oliveira. The duo gave up just one game and defeated the Ospreys 6-1. 

The No. 21 Florida pair of sophomores Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee looked shaky to start their day. However, they turned it around and defeated graduate students Kit Gulihur and Ana Paula Melilo. 

The UF tandem trailed by one throughout the first half of the match and evened the score at three apiece. Then, everything started to come together for the pair. They won the last three games and secured the doubles point with a 6-3 victory. 

Florida senior Emma Shelton and freshman Sophie Williams dueled UNF junior Annabelle Davis and freshman Jasmin Makela. The duo created a seemingly insurmountable lead and soared over the Ospreys 4-1. The UNF pair didn’t let up. They slowly chipped away at the lead and trailed 5-4 before the match went unconcluded. 

With an early lead from the doubles point, the Gators closed the door on the Ospreys tournament run in speedy fashion.

Every player looked to be at peak performance which was noticed by Florida head coach Roland Thornqvist. 

“When I was walking up and down the singles matches, I was just so pleased to see that we just showed growth in every spot,” Thornqvist said. “This team has worked really, really hard, and I’m happy for them that they’re playing their best tennis at the end of the year.” 

No. 45 Briggs was the first to add to the Gators’ lead when she defeated Davis in straight sets. Every inch the Ospreys’ junior gained on Briggs was followed by a mile from the Florida senior. She defeated Davis 6-1, 6-1 and extended UF’s lead to two.  

Florida sophomore Emily De Oliveira soon followed Briggs with another straight-sets victory. The UF sophomore shut out Nash 6-0 in the first set and sealed the deal with a 6-2 second-set victory to put the Gators one point shy of a first round victory. 

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Gailis closed the door on the Ospreys’ NCAA tournament run and clinched the match against Melilo. The UF freshman started off slow and trailed 2-1 early on. The sluggish start didn’t deter the phenom from sticking to her game. Gailis bounced back and won the next five games for a 6-2 first-set victory and wrapped up her day with a 6-1 second-set finale. 

Thornqvist spoke highly of Gailis’ performance Friday and her improvement throughout the year. 

“Sometimes with really talented players, they have so many arrows in the quiver that they perhaps choose the wrong one at times,” Thornqvist said. “Rachel is one of those.” 

He has been working on her game all throughout the year — especially the mental side — and has acknowledged her vast improvements, he said.  

“The sky's the limit for that kid,” Thornqvist said. 

Dudeney held a large lead against Oliveira before the match went unfinished. The United Kingdom native led 6-3, 4-1 before Gailis clinched the match. 

No. 17 Dahlstrom neared the finish line in her court one battle. She opened her matchup against No. 76 Gulihur with a 6-1 first-set victory. Everything continued to go her way, and the junior led 5-2 before the match went unfinished. 

Spee was the final Gator to go unfinished when she walked off Court 6 with a 6-4, 1-1 lead. The UF sophomore exchanged point for point with Makela until the score tallied three apiece. Spee tightened up and performed well until Florida achieved the four-point threshold needed for the victory. 

The Gators will stay at Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex for their next matchup and play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner will advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament. 

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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