Fighting to save a fourth match point, freshman Oliver Crawford rushed the net only to watch the evening’s final ball soar right past him. The No. 22 Florida State men’s tennis team erupted in cheers after redshirt senior Lucas Poullain’s winning shot sealed the Seminoles’ victory over the No. 8-ranked Gators on Saturday in Orlando at the USTA National Campus. The 4-3 upset marks Florida’s (3-1) second consecutive loss to FSU (10-1).
UF junior Alfredo Perez and sophomore Johannes Ingildsen defeated the duo of redshirt seniors Poullain and Jose Garcia 6-2 to open the contest. After freshman Duarte Value and junior McClain Kessler lost on the No. 2 court, the doubles point was to be decided at the No. 3 position.
Tied at 5-5 in a decisive third set, Johannes Ingildsen had a chance to keep the Gators alive.
Crawford and senior Chase Perez-Blanco fought off five match points before finally falling to Florida State’s No. 3 doubles pair of seniors Terrell and Terrance Whitehurst. A final score of 7-6(3) settled the doubles point in FSU’s favor, forcing the Gators to play from behind for the first time this season.
“We just got off to a slow start tonight in the doubles,” coach Bryan Shelton said. “That really kind of hurt us going in 1-0.”
Turning that deficit around were Perez-Blanco, Vale and Kessler, who secured the first three singles points on the No. 5, No. 3 and No. 6 courts, respectively, and returned the lead to Florida at 3-1.
However, all the three remaining Gators failed to clinch the match’s fourth point. Perez — usually UF’s No. 1 singles player — did not compete after doubles play due to Shelton’s decision.
In his place, No. 7-ranked Ingildsen played his first-ever match at the top singles position. After losing a marathon of a first-set tiebreaker in which he had a series of set points, Ingildsen fell to No. 22-ranked senior Guy Iradukunda 7-6(10), 6-3. In such a close match, Shelton identified “points here and there,” as the difference.
“Small margins in a match like tonight’s,” he said.
At the No. 4 position, a one-set lead for freshman Andy Andrade quickly turned into a three-set loss at the hands of sophomore Alex Knaff.
Tied at 3-3, the rivalry matchup came down to the No. 2 court, where Crawford and Poullain competed in two consecutive tiebreakers. Poullain won the tightly contested match, 7-6(4), 7-6(5), and handed Florida its first loss of the season.
Kessler – Florida’s team captain – doesn’t let losses like this bother him.
“This is only going to help us,” Kessler said. “This is (Florida State’s) moment of the year. Our moment of the year is coming.”
Florida plays again on Tuesday at No. 14 Michigan in its first away match of the season.