The celebration of Florida’s win over South Carolina was expected.
The Gators men’s tennis team is tied for the highest-ranked team in their respective sport at UF.
It was one worthy of a team that became the sole SEC regular-season champions for the first time since 2003.
The players all huddled and cheered together with one even throwing his hat over the fence. And it was finished by a water shower of coach Bryan Shelton.
The No. 3 Gators (20-2, 12-0 SEC) defeated the Gamecocks 6-1 on Sunday at the Ring Tennis Complex to win the SEC regular season championship. UF finished conference play undefeated for the first time since 2003 as well. The Gators also finished the regular season with their best overall record since 1977.
Florida jumped out to a quick lead in doubles. The first win came on Court 2 with junior Johannes Ingildsen and senior McClain Kessler winning 6-1. The point was clinched on Court 3 when sophomores Duarte Vale and Andy Andrade won 6-1, giving the Gators the doubles point for the third-consecutive match.
Singles started out closer than expected, with No. 18 South Carolina winning the first set on three of six courts.
The Gators soon re-discovered their dominance. No. 47 freshman Sam Riffice put the Gators ahead 2-0 with a 6-3, 6-2 win on Court 2. Kessler then made it 3-0 on Court 6 with a 6-4, 6-3 win.
He explained post-match what the moment meant to him, winning on senior day.
“This is what I’ve been wanting my whole life,” Kessler said. “My granddad played football for Florida, and when I first got here, he passed away, so in that moment I thought of him.”
Attention turned to Courts 4 and 5. Both Ingildsen and Perez were close to sealing their matches. It was Ingildsen who pulled it off with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Beau Pelletier on 4. Perez won 2-6, 6-0, 6-1 on Court 5.
The one blemish on UF’s day came on Court 1 where No. 9 Paul Jubb defeated No. 11 sophomore Oliver Crawford 6-4, 7-6 (8-6). Florida bounced back on Court 3, when No. 38 Andrade came back and won in three sets 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“Really proud of the start and then to finish the way we did,” coach Bryan Shelton said. “I’m just really excited for the team, our staff, just everyone behind the scenes.”
Follow Noah Ram on Twitter @noah_ram1 and contact him at [email protected].