UF roundup: No. 1 men's tennis team falls to No. 5 Tennessee in SEC Tournament Championship match
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It appeared No. 5 Tennessee was going to steamroll past No. 1 Florida on Friday to win the SEC Men’s Tennis Tournament Championship by taking a 3-0 lead.
But the Gators fought back and had a chance to add the tourney championship to their regular season title but fell 4-3 to the Vols (24-3).
The Gators (20-2) stormed back with wins from Duarte Vale, Josh Goodger and Blaise Bicknell to tie the match at three, before eventually falling in a thrilling three-set match with Andy Andrade on No. 3.
Goodger and Bicknell were named to the SEC Men’s Tennis All-Tournament Team for their efforts throughout the tournament. The duo remained undefeated on the year at 19-0 and 29-0 overall in singles this year.
Bicknell battled back from 2-6 deficit in the third-set tiebreaker to win it 8-6 and give the Gators a fighting chance.
Andrade came back from a 2-5 deficit in the third set to knot it up at five, but it wasn’t meant to be for UF on the day.
Florida will now await the NCAA Selection Show on May 3 at 6:30 p.m. to find out its seed and location for the NCAA Tournament. It was already named a pre-approved potential site to host the first and second rounds at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.
Florida finished stroke play at the SEC Championship on Friday, recording a 5-over par final round to finish 20-over and narrowly missing the top-eight cut at St. Simons Island, Ga. The Gators finished tied for ninth alongside Auburn.
"As a team, we just didn't have it this week," UF coach JC Deacon said. "We gave away too many shots. It started on the final hole of our first round and continued again at the end today. To win tournaments, you have to be able to finish and we just didn't do it."
The Gators will begin preparations for the NCAA Regional Championships with the field and locations set to be announced live on the Golf Channel at 2 p.m. May 5.
Freshman Joe Pagdin strung together three stellar rounds and finished the stroke play event tied for seventh place, his third top-10 finish of the spring. Pagdin's worse round came on Thursday where he fell to what ended up being the lowest he would drop on the leaderboard – tied for ninth. Coming off of his greatest finish to date in the Calusa Cup, where he turned in a top-five finish, the England native carried his momentum straight into the SEC Championship and provided a strong round for the Gators in all three days of play.
Ricky Castillo turned in the next-best overall performance, finishing the tournament 3-over par and tied for 12th individually. The sophomore turned in by far the most consistent scorecard of the day, recording 17 pars and only one bogey to finish the round 1-over. This marks his third top-15 finish of the spring.
"Fortunately, our season isn't over," Deacon said. "We've got a couple weeks to get ready for NCAA Regionals. Ricky and Joe both travel to the Walker Cup in the upcoming weeks for a great event and I will have some tough decisions to fill out the rest of the lineup."