UF Women’s Tennis: Florida Fights But Falls to USC in NCAA Second Round
BY SAM STOLTE
Women’s tennis comes up short against Trojans in regional finale
The No. 11-seeded University of Florida women’s tennis team dropped a 4-1 decision to visiting USC in the NCAA Championships’ second round of play at Linder Stadium at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex Saturday evening.
After USC secured the doubles tally, Florida countered with a spirited effort in singles but came up short as the Trojans punched a ticket to the tournament’s round of 16 in Lake Nona next week.
Junior Sydney Berlin, winning for the eighth-straight time, posted Florida’s lone point of the evening from court five. Seniors McCartney Kessler and Ida Jarlskog both won their opening sets but saw their respective matches end abruptly late in the second frame.
With Saturday’s setback, Florida’s NCAA Championships record falls to 116-31 and to 18-4 in the second round.
USC’s Summer Dvorak provided the match-sealing win from court four, defeating UF freshman Sara Dahlstrom, 7-5, 6-3.
Qualifying for its 33rd straight NCAA Tennis Championship in 2021, Florida turned its season around in early March after opening the campaign 5-6. The Gators won their final seven regular season matches and were a tough team to beat at home all season but weren’t able to overcome USC’s charge on Saturday.
Battling their 16th ranked opponent, the Gators’ 2021 season came to an end at the hands of USC, the No. 35 team in the nation. Florida’s record against USC stands at 14-8 and 3-1 in the NCAA play.
Featuring a new-look lineup in doubles, Florida fought valiantly but dropped a tight doubles point to the Trojans. No. 7 Kessler and Marlee Zein notched a 6-3 win on the top court to kick off the doubles action, helping swing the momentum in Florida’s favor. The final two matches were extremely competitive and featured strong comeback bids by the Gators that would not quite come to fruition. Jarlskog and Amber McGinnis, playing together for the first time this season, erased a 3-0 deficit and tied things up at 5-5. The tandem’s bid would fall a few bounces short as they fell 7-5 in the end. In a similar fashion on court three, Berlin and Dahlstrom raced back from a 3-1 disadvantage to jump ahead, 6-5. The duo couldn’t hold on, though, as they fell in a tiebreak, 7-6 (7-2), to Dvorak and Wilson in the deciding doubles tilt.
In singles, Berlin was the first to strike as she cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 win on five. The left-hander provided a jolt of momentum and tied the match at 1-1.
The Trojans struck back soon after, though, with back-to-back wins on courts six and two. The freshman McGinnis dropped a 6-2, 6-3 decision to Clare McKee on the sixth court before Zein suffered a 6-3, 6-3 setback on two.
Florida looked like it may have a path to a win, leading on courts one and three, but USC sealed it with a victory from the fourth court before Florida’s two senior leaders would have a say. No. 8 Kessler led No. 42 Salma Ewing, 7-5, 6-6 (3-3) and No. 103 Jarlskog held a 6-4, 5-6 edge over Dani Wilson before the action came to an end.
Kessler and Jarlskog wrap up their 2021 seasons with impressive career statistics. Kessler’s overall singles record reads 85-35 including a 43-23 record in dual match play, while Jarlskog’s ledger features a 71-27 overall mark and a 47-16 record in dual match action.