The Florida Gators women’s tennis team is feeling major déjà vu.
Last year, it played Vanderbilt in its final regular-season game and lost the match 4-2. On Saturday, the Commodores once again got the best of the Gators. This time, however, Vanderbilt’s win stung even more. Not only was the SEC Championship on the line, but UF had a 3-1 lead in the match only to watch in despair as it dwindled to nothing.
While it was a tough loss for the Gators, there are still some upsides to focus on as they prepare for the SEC Tournament beginning on April 18.
Senior Anna Danilina, the No. 13 tennis player in the NCAA, has been a bright spot for Florida over its past few matches. During the team’s match against Kentucky on Thursday, Danilina defeated opponent Emily Fanning 6-2, 6-0 in a match that coach Roland Thornqvist called “exceptional.” Danilina defeated the Commodores’ Fernanda Contreras 7-5, 6-1 dominating the No. 6 tennis player in the NCAA in the second set. Despite running away with the victory, she still spoke highly of her opponent.
“(Contreras) played really well,” Danilina said after her match. “She has a good long slice and has great hands. I tried to be physical.”
The team’s freshmen have been playing well across the season as well, with a particular up and coming star in McCartney Kessler. Kessler has won the final point in numerous meets, holding a staggering 7-1 record in clinching matches. She was recently moved up to Court 3 for her increasingly improving play. She replaced freshman Victoria Emma, who moved to Kessler’s original spot at Court 4. Kessler was the second of the Gators to win a singles match on Saturday, defeating opponent Amanda Meyer 6-1, 6-4.
While the SEC Tournament winner isn’t quite as prestigious as winning the regular season SEC Championship, bringing home the trophy would be an indicator for UF that its aspirations of a repeat title aren’t at all far-fetched. It’s also a matter of revenge, as last year, the Gators made it to the final round of the tournament only to lose to none other than the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Time will tell if the team can recover from giving up such a monumental comeback on Saturday. With a strong senior group and a freshman trio that is only improving as the year goes on, it will certainly look to try.