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UF Men’s Tennis: No. 6 Florida Drops Heartbreaker to No. 12 Aggies, 4-3

Junior Duarte Vale (above) added his 10th doubles win and 14th singles win on Sunday.
Photo by Courtney Culbreath

Courtesy of UF Athletic Association

The Gators narrowly fell in a tightly-contested tiebreaker to suffer its first SEC loss of the year in College Station.

With the match tied at 3-3 and all eyes on a second-set tiebreaker at No. 4 singles, the 12th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies (11-3, 4-0 SEC) managed to come away with a 4-3 victory at the Mitchell Tennis Center to give No. 6 Florida (15-3, 3-1 SEC) its first conference loss of the year on Sunday afternoon. The Gators nabbed their fifth straight doubles point to hold an early advantage, but the Aggies’ resilience in a number of tiebreaks throughout singles went on to carry Texas A&M to four victories in comeback fashion.

“Got to give Texas A&M a lot of credit for how they played down the stretch,” said head coach Bryan Shelton of the outcome. “We competed very hard but didn’t execute late in the match, and they allowed us to make the unforced errors.”

The Gators held a 3-2 lead late in the match, with juniors Josh Goodger and Andy Andrade battling in the remaining singles matches on courts six and four respectively. Goodger answered a first-set loss with a 6-4 decision prior to erasing a four-game deficit to climb back in his third set against Texas A&M’s Guido Marson, 4-5. However, Marson denied the late surge, coming out on top of a 40-40 deuce point to tie the match at 3-3 for the Aggies, shifting the focus to No. 4 singles.

Down a set, No. 97 Andrade fought back from a 2-4 hole in winning four of the next five games to possess a 6-5 lead prior to A&M’s Noah Schachter forcing a tiebreak. Schachter narrowly escaped a set point at 6-4, going on to reclaim an advantage at 7-8 before an Andrade backhand landed just inches outside the line to grant Schachter the 7-6 (1), 7-6 (7) victory and 4-3 win for the Aggies.

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The loss cut an eight-match win streak for Andrade, serving as just the second loss of the year for the junior (9-2).

The Gators opened the match on a high note, claiming their fifth consecutive doubles point with wins over the Aggies at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles.

45th-ranked Johannes Ingildsen and Will Grant got back on track in No. 2 doubles, entering the double-digit win mark with their 10th victory of the season over Texas A&M’s Valentin Vacherot and Noah Schachter, 6-2. As Oliver Crawford and Sam Riffice battled back-and-forth on court one, juniors Duarte Vale and Goodger rallied to bring in the clincher with a 6-4 decision over Pranav Kumar and Hady Habib for their 10th of the year as well to give UF the early lead.

In seeing one of the most deep and talented lineups faced all year, Texas A&M jumped out with the momentum in singles upon corralling four first-set wins early on, including two in tiebreakers. The Gators answered down the stretch with a pair of wins to provide a cushion, but the Aggies went on to prevail in tight spots when needed most to put themselves in a position to win.

No. 22 Vale opened singles with his 10th win at the No. 3 spot, adding a top-35 win to his resume with a straight-set trouncing of No. 34 Juan Carlos Aguilar, 6-2, 6-1. Texas A&M would respond shortly after with a win on court two, as No. 5 Sam Riffice fought back in second-set tiebreak to the Aggies’ No. 28 Habib but ultimately came up short, 6-1, 7-6 (4), to put A&M on the board, 2-1.

No. 115 Lukas Greif then came through with a pivotal win in No. 5 singles, as the sophomore continues to stay hot on the year with his eighth consecutive victory upon a 6-3, 6-3 effort over No. 115 Barnaby Smith. Moments later, No. 23 Crawford unfortunately fell to No. 3 Vacherot at the top spot to reel the margin in to 3-2 prior to the Aggies coming away with the remaining two matches on courts six and four.

“We’ll learn and move forward,” added Shelton. “Time to get ready for Georgia. I promise our guys will be hungry for next weekend. Additionally, our prayers are with Armistead Neely, as he goes into surgery tomorrow. You got this Armi and we are behind you!”

UP NEXT:

  *   The Gators prepare for another crucial weekend of conference play, hosting Georgia and Tennessee at the Alfred A. Ring Complex for a pair of nationally ranked matchups. UF will host the Bulldogs at Linder Stadium first on Friday, Mar. 13, at 5 p.m., followed by Tennessee on Sunday, Mar. 15, at 1 p.m.

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