Anna Danilina

Senior Anna Danilina and the No. 3 Gators swept Cal State Fullerton Saturday afternoon in their first dual-match meet of the season. “Everyone was a bit nervous,” Danilina said. “But I think we handled it well."

As senior Anna Danilina crouched down awaiting a serve, the home crowd at the Ring Tennis Complex began to clap in unison, a signal to Cal State Fullerton freshman Genevieve Zeidan that the match was about to come to an end.

After a short rally, Danilina hit a well-placed strike to the backcourt that was just out of Zeidan’s reach, clinching the first of three singles victories that would lead Florida to its first win of dual-match play this season.

It was all Gators in the team’s 4-0 sweep of the Titans on Saturday at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Gainesville.

“Everyone was a bit nervous,” Danilina said. “But I think we handled it well. Once we started just playing our game, it all came together.”

While doubles play appeared to be a point of concern for Florida after it struggled at the Freeman Memorial in Las Vegas earlier this month, there weren’t any problems on Saturday.

Danilina and freshman Victoria Emma won their match against Karla Portalatin and Sarah Nuno (6-4) while senior Josie Kuhlman and freshman McCartney Kessler paired up to defeat the team of Zeidan and Masako Makiba. Senior Peggy Porter and freshman Katie Kubicz were in the lead (4-3) when Danilina and Emma won their matchup, leading the pair to end their match undecided.

Coach Roland Thornqvist, who questioned whether he’d stick with the format of pairing seniors with freshman for the team’s doubles matches, seems to have found his answer.

“Judging by what I saw today, I think it’d be very wise to do,” Thornqvist said. “I think we’re really powerful, which you have to be to succeed.”

UF swept the singles court as well. Once Danilina delivered the final strike to win her match (6-1, 6-3), Porter quickly followed, defeating the Titans’ Danielle Pham (6-0, 6-2). Kuhlman then clinched a Gator victory with a win over Nuno (6-0, 6-3).

One of the things UF emphasized after the dual-meet was the performance of its freshmen, particularly in regard to Kessler, who was part of a winning doubles team with Kuhlman and was up a set in her singles match (6-1, 4-4) before victory had been clinched.

“(Kessler) was not active at all at the net in Vegas,” Thornqvist said. “But today she was and it makes a big difference.”

“I was very proud of them,” Danilina said in regard to the freshmen. “They showed a lot of maturity for first-year students.”

Florida will return to the courts tomorrow to play against Louisiana-Monroe for the finals round, beginning with doubles matches at 8 a.m.

Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].

River Wells is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida women’s tennis team. He has previously covered UF swimming and diving. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.