Special to Gatorsports.com
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It came down to one final singles match.
But when Florida junior McClain Kessler outlasted Ole Miss’ Finn Reynolds in three sets, the Gators pulled off a dramatic 4-3 win over the Ole Miss Rebels to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight for the second time in the last three seasons.
The Gators (19-9) also got singles wins from Oliver Crawford, Alfredo Perez and Chase Perez-Blanco in the Sweet 16 match, held Friday in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Ole Miss played really well in doubles and they turned it around and momentum was on their side,” UF coach Bryan Shelton said. “For us it was important for us to establish some momentum at the start of those singles matches and we did that in a lot of position. At No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles we jumped on them early in the sets and were able to establish some momentum and then it just became a fight.”
Florida will face another SEC foe, Texas A&M, in the Elite Eight on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the UNC campus. Texas A&M reached the Elite Eight with a 4-0 win over Alabama.
It took until after 5:30 p.m. for Florida to know where and when they would be playing their NCAA Round of 16 match against Ole Miss. Heavy rain throughout the week in Winston-Salem, N.C. pushed 14 of 16 matches between both the women’s and men’s tournament indoors. The high seed on the bracket played their matches at Wake Forest, the host of the 2018 tournament, while the low seeds had to travel an hour and a half to Chapel Hill, N.C. to play on the campus of the University of North Carolina.
“We just want our guys to relax most of the day and not stress over what was going to happen and let the coaches handle that,” Shelton said. “We got a light hit this morning after a good breakfast and then came back and put our feet up and just relaxed. We weren’t sure if we were going to play in Chapel Hill or Winston-Salem.”