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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Florida ends regular season on high note, wins 10th straight

Rachel Gailis earned her highest-ranked career win in the matchup

Florida's Rachel Gailis serves the ball in the team's win over Ole Miss on Sunday, March 31, 2024.
Florida's Rachel Gailis serves the ball in the team's win over Ole Miss on Sunday, March 31, 2024.

Florida sophomore Rachel Gailis has had an unforgettable regular season, holding a 20-5 singles record with a 9-2 record in SEC play.

Gailis, who sits as the No. 11-ranked singles player in the country, picked up arguably the biggest win in her career in Saturday’s season finale, defeating South Carolina’s No. 7-ranked graduate student Ayana Akli 6-2, 6-4.

It was Gailis’ highest-ranked victory in her collegiate career and fourth top-30 win in the regular season.

Gailis’ win was the third UF point of the match as the No. 13 Gators (15-7, 11-2 SEC) defeated No. 18 South Carolina (16-6, 8-5 SEC) 4-2 to claim their 10th-straight win.

Before the match began, Florida celebrated Senior Day. The program honored team captain graduate student Carly Briggs and senior Sara Dahlstrom.

The match then kicked off, and in doubles, both sides initially struggled to acclimate to the windy conditions, leading to an uptick in faults.

However, the Gators adjusted quickly to win their ninth straight doubles point in conference play.

On Court 2, UF’s team of freshmen Qavia Lopez and Briggs got the better of South Carolina’s pair of graduate students Elise Mills and Shahar Biran.

Lopez and Briggs fell behind 2-0 early before finding their footing to win six straight games to win the match 6-2.

The Gators then secured the doubles point on Court 3, where junior Bente Spee and Gailis were victorious over USC’s team of juniors Olympe Lancelot and Misa Malkin 6-2.

It was the fifth-straight win for Spee and Gailis, who ended the regular season with a 6-1 record as a team.

Singles action between the two top-20 ranked teams was extremely competitive and came down to the wire.

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The Gators had a strong start on Court 3, as Briggs occupied Court 3 in singles. She was dominant, sweeping South Carolina’s Biran 6-0, 6-0.

It was Briggs’ sixth-straight singles win, putting the finishing touches on her final collegiate regular season.

The Gamecocks then claimed their first point of the day on Court 2, where No. 16 junior Sarah Hammer bested No. 85 Dahlstrom 6-2, 6-2.

No. 11 Gailis then picked up the massive victory as she dispatched South Carolina’s No. 7 Ayana Akli 6-2, 6-4.

With Florida needing one more point for the overall match victory, the remaining three matches on Courts 4-6 went to third sets.

However, South Carolina was not out of the fight yet On Court 4, Mills got the better of Florida junior Alicia Dudeney in a three-set bout.

Mills took the first set 6-2 before Dudeney stormed back to win the second set 6-3. Ultimately, Mills prevailed in the competitive third set 7-5 to earn the point.

The match on Court 5 came down to a third-set tiebreaker, but No. 115 Lopez edged out the win over South Carolina’s Malkin 7-6, 6-2, 7-6.

Lopez’s win clinched Florida’s 10th-straight victory and its 15th win of the regular season.

Two matches did not have the chance to finish.

The Court 1 doubles match ended with Florida’s No. 45 pair of freshman Malwina Rowinska and Dudeney even with South Carolina’s No. 21 team of Akli and Hammer 4-4 at the time of finish.

The unfinished match means Dudeney and Rowinska end the regular season undefeated as a pair, holding an impressive 5-0 doubles record.

Meanwhile, the Court 6 singles match between Florida’s Spee and South Carolina’s Lancelot ended midway through the third set.

Spee took the first set 7-6 before Lancelot came back to win the second set 6-2. Lancelot led the third set 4-1 at the time of finish.

Florida will now head to Athens, Georgia, for the SEC Tournament, which is set to begin on April 17.

Contact Max Bernstein at mbernstein@alligator.org. Follow him on X @maxbernstein23.

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