Sam Riffice looked like he had been there before.
The Florida freshman casually tossed the ball up in the air, then smashed it over the net and toward Ohio State’s JJ Wolf, the No. 2 men’s tennis player in the country.
The two engaged in a brief rally after Wolf returned the serve. Then, with Riffice positioned close to the net, Wolf sailed one over the Florida player’s head and out of bounds.
Rifice pulled off the biggest upset of the NCAA Singles Championships in Orlando on Monday, defeating the Big Ten Player of the Year in comeback fashion to advance to the quarterfinals. Riffice is now Florida’s sole representative at the event, as sophomore Oliver Crawford was eliminated by North Carolina’s William Blumberg.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Riffice, and the task became even more difficult when he dropped the first set 6-3. Riffice, however, showed remarkable composure for someone playing in his first NCAA Round of 16 match and took the second set 6-3, setting up a do-or-die third set.
Riffice kept his composure once again, taking the set 5-2 and handing Wolf just his second loss of the season.
“I thought I played an amazing match today. I had a good game plan I felt, like, to kind of disrupt his rhythm because he is such a powerful player,” Riffice said in a release. “I thought I executed my game plan really well today.”
The victory prolongs Florida’s representation for at least another day. The team as a whole was eliminated last week in the NCAA semifinals, and Riffice is UF’s last hope to take home some hardware after Crawford’s loss to Blumberg, the No. 9 player in the country.
Riffice, who became the first Florida player since 2014 to advance to the quarterfinals with the win, will face No. 10 Aleksandar Kovacevic of Illinois on Thursday.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected].