Florida advances to the national semifinals of NCAA men's tennis tournament

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida's Duarte Vale rallies to win his singles match Thursday against Texas A&M University at the NCAA D1 Tennis Championships at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.

ORLANDO — Top overall seed Florida advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA men's tennis tournament early Friday morning with a 4-1 win over No. 8 seed Texas A&M at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona.

Florida (24-2) will play defending champion Texas (24-5), which eliminated Southern Cal 4-3 earlier Thursday, in Friday's national semifinal at 7:30 p.m. (Tennis Channel). The No. 4-seeded Longhorns handed the Gators their first loss of the season with a 4-3 setback Jan. 23 at the ITA Kickoff Weekend in Austin.

Baylor, the two seed, and third-seeded Tennessee play in today's other semifinal. Today's winners gain a spot in the national championship match Saturday night.

The Aggies (19-9) won the doubles point in straight sets with decisions at No. 1 and No. 2.

"After getting down in one doubles, we were down a break early," UF coach Bryan Shelton said. "I was proud of our guys for fighting back. Gave ourselves a chance to win that doubles point. Got to match point. Unfortunately it didn't bounce our way but we've been resilient all year.

"We've lost a doubles points throughout the season. We lost the doubles point last time we played Texas A&M at the SEC tournament and we turned that match around and won it so back to business, business as usual.”

After a rain delay, the Gators roared back in singles play, getting straight-set wins from Sam Riffice (at No. 2), Blaise Bicknell (No. 4) and Ben Shelton (No. 5) for a 3-1 lead.

Needing one more singles win to clinch, the Aggies weren't going to let the Gators, who defeated Texas A&M twice already this season, advance without a struggle in the remaining three matches, forcing each to a third set.

Duarte Vale, Florida's No. 1 singles player, trailed after Valentin Vacherot won the first set 7-6. Vale then won the next two 6-1, 6-2 to seal Florida's final four berth.

“I don't know when you're playing for your teammates, sometimes, for me, I can just go deeper," Vale said. "When I'm in holes, losing that first set which was a tough one and losing the doubles point, I look around and find inspiration in my teammates and coaches and it makes me look harder and try to keep digging and find a higher level and tonight I was able to find it.”

Doubles Results: 3, 2, 1

1. #8 Bjorn Thomson/Carlos Aguilar (TAMU) def. Duarte Vale/Johannes Ingildsen (UF) 7-6 (8-6)

2. #65 Valentin Vacherot/Pierce Rollins (TAMU) def. Sam Riffice/Ben Shelton (UF) 6-3

3. Will Grant/Brian Berdusco (UF) def. #86 Hady Habib/Noah Schachter (TAMU) 6-2

Singles Results: 5, 4, 2, 1

1. #4 Duarte Vale (UF) def. #5 Valentin Vacherot (TAMU) 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-2

2. #6 Sam Riffice (UF) def. #3 Hady Habib (TAMU) 7-6 (7-5), 6-4

3. #18 Andy Andrade (UF) vs. #30 Carlos Aguilar (TAMU) 6-3, 4-6, 4-3, *unfinished*

4. #51 Blaise Bicknell (UF) def. #100 Noah Schachter (TAMU) 6-3, 6-4

5. Ben Shelton (UF) def. #122 Pierce Rollins (TAMU) 6-2, 7-5

6. #79 Josh Goodger (UF) vs. Guido Marson (TAMU) 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 2-3, *unfinished*

Florida's Sam Riffice wins his singles Thursday against Texas A&M at the NCAA D1 Tennis Championships at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.