Florida is trying to prove last year’s Final Four run wasn’t a fluke.
The Gators took a step toward accomplishing that when they went 2-1 at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, on Feb. 14-16. It was their best finish at the event since 2010.
Following the event, UF (11-2) dropped to No. 6 after being ranked No. 3 heading into the tournament.
Coach Shelton said he believes Florida is capable of repeating last year’s success.
“I think we can make a serious title run,” Shelton said during media availability last week. “It just starts with preparing each day the right way and focusing on doing the right things.”
It started at the Indoor Championships, knocking off then-No. 9 Columbia 4-0 in the first round. Next, against then-No. 5 North Carolina, the Gators snapped their eight-match winning streak when it lost 4-0 and fell to the consolation bracket. In UF’s final game, it defeated then-No. 6 Wake Forest 4-1.
Shelton said he was pleased with his team’s performance in Wisconsin.
He also added that he was proud of their response against the Demon Deacons, following the Tarheels’ dismantling of the Gators.
“(We) learned a lot about how resilient we were to bounce back against Wake Forest, the way that we did,” he said. “It was really the best match of our season so far.”
Last year’s squad didn’t fare as well, going 1-2 in the Indoor Championships.
Before its defeat this year versus UNC, the Gators had won 11-straight doubles points.
But, they wouldn’t be able to recover during singles on Saturday.
They didn’t falter after losing the doubles point the next day against Wake Forest. Florida didn’t allow the Deacons to score another point in singles on Sunday.
Shelton said it was the players, not the coaches, who took accountability to ensure the team didn’t break after doubles again.
He said the players held a meeting before singles where they talked about being resilient and jumping out early in singles to retake control of the match.
Their message clearly worked because UF grabbed the first set on five out of six courts and went on to win the match.
After playing five teams currently ranked in the top 20 of the ITA rankings to start the season, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Gators in SEC play.
The conference is home to nine teams in the top 50 of the ITA team rankings, and Florida is slated to play all of them, including No. 10 Tennessee, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 14 Ole Miss.
UF kicks off the SEC portion of their schedule today when it takes on No. 27 Alabama (9-3) at 5 p.m. at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.
Follow Zachary on Twitter @zacharyahuber. Contact him at [email protected].