TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Florida men’s tennis team saw its SEC Tournament run come to a close Saturday after a heartbreaking 4-2 loss to No. 2 seed Mississippi State in the semifinals.
Third-seeded Florida (16-9) started strong on two of the three doubles courts against Mississippi State (19-2). The Gators led for the whole match on Court 3 and were tied at three on Court 2 midway through the doubles point. On 3, Oliver Crawford-Chase Perez-Blanco were able to stop a late rally from Mississippi State to win their match 6-3. On 2, McClain Kessler-Duarte Vale were unable to stay with the Bulldogs, falling 6-4.
In singles, the Gators got off to the start they needed to after losing the double point. Florida took the first set in four of the six matches knowing they needed to win four singles matches to win the match.
Alfredo Perez dominated with a 6-3, 6-2 win to even the match at 1-1. After MSU took a 2-1 lead with a win on Court 1, it was Kessler, the team captain, who battled back from a first-set loss to win set two and three by scores of 6-1 and 6-4 to tie the match at 2-2.
On Court 2 and 4, the Gators lost set one by scores of 6-4 but prevailed in their second sets 6-4. Both Perez-Blanco and Crawford nearly completed their third-set comebacks but both fell just shy as Crawford lost 6-4 and Perez-Blanco fell 6-3. On Court 5, Andy Andrade played one of his best matches of the year. His match ended unfinished but after losing Set 1 6-7, he won Set 2 6-4 and was leading 5-2 in the final set.
“We laid everything out on the court today all the way to the last point,” UF coach Bryan Shelton said. “The attitude that we displayed, the fight, the competitive spirit, thinking through the match and trying make adjustments as we went through it I’m just so proud of this team.”
The Gators will find out Tuesday where and who they will be playing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show will air at 5:30 p.m. on NCAA.com. The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament will be played on host campuses May 12-13.
Men’s golf: At St. Simons Island, Ga., the Gators lost narrowly to Alabama in the SEC semifinals Saturday and will now await their seeding in the NCAA Regional tournament. Freshman John Axelsen beat Lee Hodges for the lone Florida win in the match play competition while Chris Nido tied with his opponent. Florida and Alabama are the only two schools to advance to the semis in both years of the new match play format. The Gators’ spot in the NCAA Regional tournament will be announced May 2 at 5:30 p.m. on the Golf Channel.