In the midst of the sweltering midday sun, it looked as if there was hope for the Florida men’s tennis team.
Down 3-2 to the Texas Longhorns, junior Johannes Ingildsen and senior Alfredo Perez were desperately battling to take UF past the NCAA semifinals for the first time in school history.
Ingildsen dropped his match, however, and those hopes fell to ruin.
Texas defeated the Gators 4-2 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando on Saturday, securing its spot in the championship. Florida, meanwhile, fell to 0-3 all-time in the Final Four.
The Gators (25-4) struggled from the outset, starting the day by dropping the doubles point. Texas’ pair of Harrison Scott and Christian Sigsgaard bested Ingildsen and senior McClain Kessler on Court 1 (6-3), and the Longhorns’ Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito clinched by defeating the sophomore duo of Duarte Vale and Andy Andrade.
Singles didn’t start much better. Texas (28-3) used the momentum to its advantage to get up on Florida 3-0, taking the first two matches when Ito beat freshman Sam Riffice on Court 2 (6-2, 6-2) and the Longhorns’ Rodrigo Blazer bested Kessler on Court 6 (6-2, 6-4).
"Texas did a nice job today in the critical stages of matches,'' coach Bryan Shelton said in a release. "We always say those first 20 minutes of singles, you really want to set the tone and I thought Texas did a great job of that, coming out aggressively.”
After sophomore Oliver Crawford defeated Sigsgaard on Court 1 (6-4, 6-3) and Andrade got the best of Texas’ Colin Markes on Court 5 (7-6 (4), 6-4), it was up to Ingildsen and Perez to complete the comeback down 3-2. Although Ingildsen was up 5-4 at one point during the second set of the match, his opponent, Leonardo Telles, won the three last games of the set to defeat the two-time All-American and end UF’s season.
"I thought if we could get them deep, we had a good chance in the heat, extend the matches a little bit longer and continue to play, that we would have our chances,” Shelton said. “They did a good job at stepping up at the right time and executing."
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].