Florida men's tennis eliminated by the Pioneers
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 1:05 a.m.
With a 3-1 lead, all 15th-ranked Florida needed was one win in the remaining three singles matches against Denver to move on to the second round of NCAA Tournament play.
Instead, it's the Pioneers who will play No. 18 California today at 4 p.m. for a berth in the NCAA Round of 16 after rallying for a 4-3 upset win over the Gators and ending UF's season.
Cal (15-9) advanced by defeating Florida State (18-11) in Friday's tournament opener, 4-1.
“Our guys just fought their tails off,” Denver coach Danny Westerman said. “They deserve all the credit. It's been an unbelievable, roller-coaster year. We lost nine in a row at one point and won nine in a row. Going through what we went through got them ready for something like today. They really earned it. They stuck together when no one probably believed in them and they believed in themselves. It was great.”
“They played very well; give them all the credit in the world,” first-year Florida coach Bryan Shelton said. “They were prepared to play and they competed like champions.”
UF (15-11) started out well, winning the doubles point with an 8-4 decision at No. 1 from the duo of junior Stephane Piro and senior Bob van Overbeek, followed by an 8-3 win at No. 3 from the tandem of junior Florent Diep and redshirt freshman Gordon Watson less than a minute later.
Watson gave UF a 2-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Denver's Fabio Biasion at No. 5 singles, but the Pioneers' Enej Bonin, the nation's No. 59th-ranked player, got his team on the board minutes later by closing out UF's Piro, ranked No. 52, 6-4, 6-3.
Junior Mike Alford put UF up by two again, 3-1, with a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 4 singles, but Denver's Jens Vorkefeld made it 3-2 shortly thereafter with a 7-6, 6-3 win over Diep at No. 2.
The Gators' two remaining players at that point were their two seniors, van Overbeek and Billy Federhofer, but neither could pull out the needed win. Both fell in three sets, with Denver's Max Krammer edging van Overbeek 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 to knot the score at 3-all, just seconds before Alex Clinkenbeard closed out Federhofer 7-5, 1-6, 6-1 to give the Pioneers (12-11) their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.
“Although we got the doubles point, the match was far from over in their (Pioneers) minds,” Shelton said. “To be up 3-1 in that match and have three guys out on the court, that's a tough pill to swallow. But like I said, those guys never quit and kept competing to give themselves an opportunity to win the match, and when they had the opportunity, they seized it.”
For Shelton and UF, it was a disappointing finish.
“You lose and you're done, and for us, it was the end of our season,” he said. “That's always hard. It hurts, and I want it to hurt our guys to the point that it motivates them to get better. We've got to get better as a team, got to get better as a program; we've got to do things better so that there's more margin between us and the opponents that we're playing against. Right now, there just wasn't enough margin for us to get the job done today.”