In its final tune-up before league action, Florida’s singles play was outstanding as it recorded victories on five of the six courts.
Playing for the second time in three days, the junior Berlin provided the match-clinching victory on court five for the Gators, giving her victories in back-to-back matches.
Taking on their fourth straight in-state foe, the Gators won for the first time this season when conceding the doubles point.
The doubles point was highly contested, with two very tight matches on courts one and two. After court three fell in favor of the Bulls, it looked as if the Gators may have a path as they led early on both remaining courts, but they were not able to hold on. USF clinched the doubles point when Schumacher and Timmermans rallied back to defeat Florida’s No. 2 team of Jarlskog and Dahlstrom. The duo led 3-2 and tied the match at 4-4, but the Bulls’ pairing pulled out a 6-4 win. The Bulls opened the scoring with a victory on court three as Berlin and Amber McGinnis, playing together for the fourth time, suffered a 6-2 setback to USF’s Eland and Pellicer. No. 26 Kessler and Zein put forward a strong effort again from the Gators’ top slot but saw their match go unfinished at 5-5 after they had built a 4-2 lead.
After dropping the doubles point for the fourth straight match, Florida’s focus shifted to singles, and its focus was fierce. It came out with a sense of urgency, claiming five of the six opening sets.
Florida’s No. 1 Kessler was the initial catalyst in Florida’s dominant performance in singles as she collected a 6-2, 6-1 win over Amelie Boy. Following Kessler’s lead, Zein soon after registered a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Grace Schumacher.
From court four, Dahlstrom made it 3-1 in favor of Florida with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Evelyne Tiron. The freshman from Sweden added her second-straight win.
The left-handed hitter Berlin then notched a 6-1, 6-3 win on court four to clinch the match.
Following the clinch, Jarlskog put the finishes touches on her 7-5, 6-3 win over Laura Pellicer on court three, snapping a skid of consecutive losses. The freshman McGinnis was the lone Gator to fall in singles as she dropped a 6-1, 6-4 decision on the sixth court.
Florida improves to 54-1 all-time against the Bulls and 22-1 in matchups played in Tampa.
NEXT UP: The Gators return to action Friday, Feb. 19 when they travel to Alabama for their conference opener.
On the team’s response after dropping the doubles point… “It was a defining moment for us, honestly. We had lost three straight matches, and you lose the doubles point and we really played poorly to be honest. We just gave away points left and right, for no reason. We looked good in training, and I thought our morale was strong despite losing three straight, but we played a really poor doubles point. In the five minutes in between, we sort of challenged ourselves and said ‘this is a defining moment’. Let’s see what we can do this, this can either be a good thing or it could be a bad thing. They really answered the bell. We stormed out to some leads right away, I was really pleased with how we competed.”
On McCartney Kessler and Marlee Zein setting the tone in singles… “I really was impressed with them, I think they are getting better. They feel it, too. You can tell that they feel that they are improving. They are all bought in, which is really nice, and they do a really good job of leading the team from the middle. You can sense the energy and obviously when you have players of that ability at the top, it just gives everyone some hope in their game. I was really pleased. I thought we were able to bounce off a poor doubles point into some really strong opening sets in singles, which is exactly what you hope to see at that point.”
On the team’s focus heading into conference play… “Well, look, this is a team that likes to train, which is fantastic because that allows us to improve throughout the season. They are fantastic people, they all get along and help each other. So we are going to have a couple days of fitness and really get after it and watch some film. Overall we are just trying to elevate our play for that opening weekend. SEC season is obviously something we have circled, it’s the meat of our schedule. We are going to be very excited to start our SEC season at Alabama.”