By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
It seems that once the match finally started between fourth-ranked Florida and Florida Gulf Coast, the Gators, the No. 3 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, simply took care of business with their 4-0 win.
But getting to that point definitely took a lot of time — and a lot of patience on UF’s part.
The match was scheduled to start at noon, but it did not start until after 4 p.m., finally ending a little after 6.
“It always feels good to get the team win,” said sophomore Duarte Vale, who provided the clinching point for Florida when he closed out his 6-4, 6-1 win over FGCU’s Javier Fernandez at No. 6 singles.
“I was just happy that I could help.”
Florida (22-3) came out strong, picking up the doubles point with wins at No. 2 from Alfredo Perez-Sam Riffice and at No. 1 from Johannes Ingildsen-McClain Kessler, respectively.
Riffice, a freshman, then was the first player to finish singles, polishing off Felipe Ramirez at No. 2 by a 6-1, 6-4 count for a 2-0 UF lead.
Just a few minutes later, Ingildsen, a junior, closed out Felipe Escobar 6-4, 6-0 to make it 3-0 UF, and Vale then sealed the deal.
“My opponent played well in the beginning, and I wasn’t at my best,” Ingildsen said. “I didn’t think I was serving as well as I should be. He came out hard and competed, but after that I got into a good rhythm and started playing better.”
FGCU finished its season 14-9.
Florida will face rival Florida State at 2 p.m. Saturday in second-round action at the Ring Tennis Complex on the UF campus.
The Seminoles (19-10) advanced with a 4-3 win over UCF (15-11) in Friday’s tournament opener, which also started three hours earlier than originally scheduled due to weather concerns.
The match came down to the No. 3 singles between FSU’s Juan Jalif and UCF’s Bogdan Pavel.
It was the only one to go three sets and ended up in a rain delay that occurred with Jalif holding a 5-3 edge in the third set but trailing in the game score, 15-30.
When play finally resumed, Jalif finished his match and sent the ‘Noles into the second round.
“It’s always exciting to play in NCAAs, but especially Florida State,” Ingildsen noted. “The three years that I’ve been here, I’ve lost twice to them, so I know how it feels to lose to that team and it’s not fun. But we got them last time, and we just know this is going to be a huge battle. They’re a good team and it’s always a fight no matter what. It’s going to be fun to have them at home this time. Hopefully we can have a lot of Gator fans come out.”
Vale echoed those sentiments.
“Like Joe said, it’s already a very exciting tournament, and to be able to play a rival like Florida State at home is really cool,” he said. “We’re prepared and we’re going to come out ready to play our best.”
Women’s tennis: At Lawrence, Kansas, Florida (13-11) advanced to the second round with a 4-1 win over Boston College (16-11).
Ida Jarlskog-Tsveta Dimitrova and Marlee Zein-Sydney Berlin gave Florida the lead by winning the doubles point. Then Jarlskog, McCartney Kessler and Sydney Berlin won in singles to finish off the Eagles.
“We had good body language throughout the match,” UF coach Roland Thornqvist said. “We played with a lot of confidence in doubles today. Then in singles, we got off to great starts on many of the courts, and we never looked back.
“I really feel like we have a had a good period of training and like we talked about at the conclusion of the regular season heading into the SEC Tournament, we really have been playing better and better. I feel like we have that momentum still.”
The Gators will play the winner of the other first-round match between No. 14 Kansas and Denver in Round 2 at 2 p.m. ET Saturday.