By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
[Updated 9:42 p.m. 5-13] How sweet it is!
The 13th-ranked Florida Gator men’s tennis team advanced to the Round of 16 for the third straight season Sunday with a 4-0 win over Miami in an NCAA second-round match played at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex.
The win was the fifth in the last six matches for UF (18-9) and the Gators’ second straight shutout.
Florida now heads to Winston-Salem, N.C., for the Round of 16 hosted by Wake Forest University, while the Hurricanes, who were making their first NCAA postseason appearance since 2011, finish the year at 15-13.
“You work all year and it’s not just for these moments because you just want to continue to grow and develop,” UF coach Bryan Shelton said. “But these moments are special and they’re exciting. Any time you collectively do something with the team, it just far outweighs anything that you can do individually.”
UF wasted little time in winning the doubles point, with the tandems of McClain Kessler and Duarte Vale winning at No. 3 followed by the No. 1 pair of Alfredo Perez-Johannes Ingildsen.
Kessler got the singles going with a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 6 over Nile Clark, and Chase Perez-Blanco followed with a 6-2, 6-1 decision over Miami’s Niclas Genovese at No. 5 to put the Gators one point from victory.
Alfredo Perez then closed it out with a 6-4, 6-3 win at No. 3.
“I just wanted to be really aggressive, use my serve and try to get my forehand and then use everything else in my game to try and move forward,” Kessler said. “I got it done today, so it was good.”
Perez-Blanco, one of two seniors for UF, said he was happy to have played a role in the win in his final home match.
“It was a tough match,” he said. “He’s a great player, and I’ve known him for a couple of years now, so I knew what he was going to bring. I just had to stay focused on what I was going to do and I was able to execute my game plan.
“It’s bittersweet. I’m glad I was able to go out with a win here individually and as a team. I’m going to miss playing here. It was the best four years and best atmosphere that I’ve ever been a part of.”
Next up, Florida faces Ole Miss at 7 p.m. Friday after the Rebels upset No. 4 seed Stanford 4-3 in Palo Alto.
“I think there was a lot of belief on our side of the net, and the belief starts with the preparation,” Shelton said. “I felt like these guys really prepared well, not just in the last two weeks but throughout the season. I’ve seen first-hand their skill sets improve. What these guys can do now versus what they did when they first arrived here at the beginning of the season, they’ve really developed in a lot of different ways. I think that’s helped them with their confidence.”