UF men top SC State, advance to 2nd round of NCAAs

Florida's No. 1 singles player Oliver Crawford won his match Saturday, but UF lost to the Longhorns in the NCAA final four in Orlando. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/File]

By Jim Harvin

The Florida men’s tennis team was simply too much for South Carolina State as it moved on to the second round Saturday of the NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 win in opening-day action at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex.

The Gators (17-9) will face Miami (15-12), a 4-0 first-round winner over UNF (13-10) in Saturday’s first match, in second-round action Sunday at 1 p.m. with a berth in the Round of 16 next weekend in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on the line. The loss ended the season for SC State (10-7).

“It was fun to get back out there and see our guys compete again,” UF coach Bryan Shelton said. “We had a couple of long weeks of practice where we put in a lot of work, and for them to go out there in the first round and execute as well as we did, I was really pleased.

“It started with the doubles and I thought we were really efficient in the singles as well. So overall, it was just a good team effort and a good team win today against a very good South Carolina State team.”

Florida jumped on the Bulldogs, winning the doubles point with a 6-0 win at No. 3 by the tandem of McClain Kessler and Duarte Vale followed quickly by a 6-1 win at No. 2 by Oliver Crawford and Chase Perez-Blanco. UF’s No. 1 pair of Alfredo Perez-Johannes Ingildsen was on the verge of clinching its match at 5-2 when the point was decided.

From there, it was on to singles, where the Gators quickly made it 3-0 with a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 1 from Crawford and 6-2, 6-0 from Kessler at No. 6, respectively.

Andres Andrade then finished it off with a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 4 a few minutes later, sending the Gators into the second round.

“We put in a lot of good work the past couple of weeks, and we were just more prepared for the heat than they were,” Kessler said. “We got on them early and we knew that if we made it long points early we’d have a good chance to put together our stuff and our tools to get where we wanted to be.”

Being home was also key for the Gators.

“It’s always easier to play at home than it is away,” Crawford said. “We have one of the best crowds in the country, so it was good that they came out and were very supportive.”

UF figures to get a battle from the Hurricanes, who are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and definitely would like nothing better than to upset the Gators on their home court Sunday.

“The message to the whole team is really look at your own identity,” Shelton said. “Make sure you stay true to that. We don’t need you to be anyone else out there because the strengths that you bring to the table are plenty enough. Understand where your strengths are.”

NCAA tennis tournament

At UF’s Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex:

Today | Men’s Second Round

1 p.m. Miami (15-12) vs. Florida (17-9)