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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Gators sting Yellow Jackets, advance to the the Sweet Sixteen of NCAA tournament

Rachel Gailis clinched the victory with a thrilling singles match that went the distance

Florida senior Emma Shelton sets up in the Gators' 4-1 victory against the Florida State Seminoles Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.
Florida senior Emma Shelton sets up in the Gators' 4-1 victory against the Florida State Seminoles Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.

The score tallied 3-1. Florida held a comfortable lead that looked at risk. 

Three singles matches entered deciding sets and the Gators’ momentum had slipped, but freshman star Rachel Gailis stayed locked in. 

Gailis arrived at the clinching set after she rebounded back from an uncharacteristic first-set performance. The freshman put herself in the position to take the lead all throughout the opening set but was unable to deliver the finishing blow. But little by little, she recovered and eventually put herself in the position to win the match for Florida. 

The freshman phenom immaculately placed a ball that No. 115 Georgia Tech freshman Alejandra Cruz was unable to return over the net. Gailis was mobbed by her teammates and clinched the victory for the Gators. 

“Cruz is really tough. She does not miss,” Florida head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “Rachel up 3-0 in the third maybe put on the brakes a little and regained her composure and kept trying to push the action.” 

The No. 16 Florida Gators (18-6, 9-4 SEC) defeated the No. 19 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (16-10, 7-6 ACC) 4-1 Saturday afternoon at Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex. The win pushed the Gators to the sweet sixteen round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. 

Florida started red hot and kept up its early momentum for the victory. 

Freshman Rachel Gailis and senior Carly Briggs — ranked as the No. 67 doubles pair by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association — jolted to a remarkable start. The pair gained a 3-0 lead against Georgia Tech senior Monika Dedaj and sophomore Kate Sharabura until the score was 40 all in the fourth game. 

On what would’ve been the game point for the Gators, a ball rolled across the court just before the Florida duo delivered the final blow. The delay gave the Yellow Jackets another opportunity to close the gap, but the Gators tandem remained poised and threw one last punch to win the game. Briggs and Gailis took the final two games for the 6-0 sweep. 

Florida senior Emma Shelton and Sophie Williams struggled against the Tech pair of senior Rosie Garcia Gross and junior Carol Lee. The Gators’ duo could only muster a single game against the tandem and fell 6-1. 

All eyes moved to Court 2 where the No. 21-ranked pair of Florida sophomores Bente Spee and Alicia Dudeney faced off against Yellow Jackets sophomore Kylie Blichev and Cruz. 

The score favored the Gators 4-1, but the Yellow Jackets inched closer to Florida’s seemingly comfortable lead. The GT duo took the next two games and led 40-15, moments away from tying the score to four apiece. 

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But the Florida duo kept up the battle. Spee and Dudeney swept the remaining points to win the game and took the final two games for the doubles point. 

Florida led by one to enter singles and forced the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to claw back from their early deficit. 

No. 99 Dudeney had her way versus No. 102-ranked GT junior Mahak Jain. The UF sophomore snatched the first game 6-1 and backed up her play with a 6-2 second-set performance. The win tallied Florida’s point total to two and put them halfway to victory. 

No. 45 Briggs was ousted in straight sets against No. 31 Blichev. The Georgia Tech sophomore controlled all the momentum throughout both sets for a 6-3, 6-4 victory. The one-point Florida lead wouldn’t last for long as Court 1 neared conclusion. 

No. 17-ranked Florida junior Sara Dahlstrom faced off against No. 15 Lee on the spotlight court. The UF junior, who has been dominant as of late, jumped out the gates with a scorching hot start. 

Dahlstrom won the first set 6-2 and doubled down her efforts with a 6-4 second-set score. Florida needed one more point for the win and looked to courts four, five and six which all entered deciding sets. 

Gailis bounced back from an early deficit versus No. 115 Cruz and entered a third set. Cruz dominated, 6-2, in the first set but the Florida freshman evened the score with a 6-4 second-set performance. Gailis clinched the match with a 6-3 final to elevate the Gators past the Yellow Jackets. The remainder of matches went unconcluded. 

Florida sophomore Emily De Oliveira faced off against Garcia Gross on Court 5. The Florida sophomore made quick work of the challenger and won the first set 6-2. Garcia Gross rebounded in the second set and won 6-3 to force a final deciding set. De Oliveira was unable to deliver the finishing blow but led 6-5 in the final set. 

Spee went unfinished versus Sharabura. The Florida sophomore lost the first set 6-4 and worked her way to a third set after a 6-2 second-set victory. Spee trailed 4-3 before the game went unfinished. 

The Gators are set to play the winner of the Old Dominion vs. North Carolina matchup Friday, May 12th. The start time for the match will be announced soon.   

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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