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UF Women’s Tennis: Gators Fall 4-2 to Auburn Sunday

Junior Marlee Zein and teammate McCartney Kessler teamed up for a win over No. 11 Taylor Russo and Selin Ovunc of Auburn.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SAM STOLTE

Women’s tennis collects doubles point for second match in a row but comes up a bit short in road challenge

Despite collecting the doubles point for the second straight match and an impressive singles victory from senior standout No. 32 McCartney Kessler, the No. 22 University of Florida women’s tennis team came up short at Auburn Sunday, dropping a 4-2 decision at the Yarbrough Tennis Center.
 
Taking on an Auburn team that entered the matchup 6-1 and fresh off an upset of No. 20 South Carolina Friday night, Florida started strong and had opportunities in singles but fell short against the red-hot Tigers.
 
After UF raced out to a 2-0 lead, Auburn closed the match with four consecutive singles victories to defeat the Gators for the first time in its 45 tries.
 
The Gators and Tigers met for a thrilling match last season on the Plains that resulted in a 4-3 victory for visiting UF, and Sunday’s matchup was also a dandy, with the verdict coming down to a pair of three-set matches.
 
Trailing 3-2, Florida was very much still in the hunt, with Ida Jarlskog and Sydney Berlin still active on courts three and five, respectively. Jarlskog, who fought hard for a 6-4 win in the opening frame, fell in a three-set showdown to Carolyn Ansari, who clinched the victory for AU.
 
On court five, Sydney Berlin had her sights set on a fourth match-clinching win, but she saw her match go unfinished at 7-5, 1-6, 4-4.
 
For the third time this season, the Gators started off with a 1-0 edge after winning the doubles point. Florida’s No. 3 team, Berlin and Amber McGinnis, shook off a four-match losing streak and broke through for a dominant 6-1 victory over Auburn’s Ansari and Meredith to open the scoring. The point would come down to the battles on courts one and two, which were tight matchups.
 
Despite equalizing with their opponent at 3-3, UF’s No. 2 squad of Sara Dahlstrom and Jarlskog dropped a 6-3 decision to Axon and Flach. Picking up their fourth victory over a ranked opponent this season, No. 26 Kessler and Marlee Zein fought in an intense contest on the top court with No. 11 Russo and Ovunc. UF’s pair jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, but Auburn surged back to tie things at 5-5. The veterans Kessler and Zein regrouped, though, and triumphed with a 7-5 win.  
 
In singles, the Gators registered the opening game on all six courts to continue their momentum.
 
Improving to 4-1 in dual match action, nationally-ranked Kessler opened the scoring with a clinical 6-1, 6-2 win on court one to put the Gators ahead 2-0. With a win over AU’s No. 62 Selin Ovunc, Kessler moved to 2-1 against ranked foes this season.
 
Auburn responded with wins on courts two and three in succession to quickly knot the score at 2-2 as the junior Zein came up short to Yu Chen, 6-3, 6-2, and UF’s rookie Amber McGinnis fell in straight sets to fellow freshman, Adeline Flach.
 
The Tigers struck again on court four as Auburn’s senior Georgia Axon knocked off Dahlstrom, 6-3, 6-4. Facing a 3-2 deficit, Florida would need wins on courts three and five, which both had been extended to three sets.
 
Both Jarlskog and Berlin collected wins in their respective opening sets but could not hold on against the their Auburn opponents.
 
NEXT UP: The Gators resume SEC action this coming weekend when they host LSU and Texas A&M at the Ring Tennis Complex. UF faces the Tigers on Friday, Feb. 26 at 5 p.m. ET before wrapping up the set with the Texas A&M Aggies at Noon on Sunday, Feb. 28.

Auburn 4, No. 22 Florida 2
Doubles Results
1. #26 McCartney Kessler/Marlee Zein (UF) def. #11 Taylor Russo/Selin Ovunc (AU) 7-5
2. Georgie Axon/Adeline Flach (AU) def. Sara Dahlstrom/Ida Jarlskog (UF) 6-3
3. Sydney Berlin/Amber McGinnis (UF) def. Carolyn Ansari/Madeline Meredith (AU) 6-1

Doubles order of finish: 3,2,1

Singles Results
1. #32 McCartney Kessler (UF) def. #62 Selin Ovunc (AU) 6-1, 6-2
2. Yu Chen (AU) def. Marlee Zein (UF) 6-3, 6-2
3. Carolyn Ansari (AU) def. Ida Jarlskog (UF) 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
4. Georgie Axon (AU) def. Sara Dahlstrom (UF) 6-3, 6-4
5. #99 Taylor Russo (AU) vs. Sydney Berlin (UF) 5-7, 6-1, 4-4, unfinished
6. Adeline Flach (AU) def. Amber McGinnis (UF) 6-2, 6-2

Singles order of finish: 1,2,6,4,3

Quotes from the Court

Head Coach Roland Thornqvist
On the match as a whole…
“It was a high-level tennis match. Congrats to Auburn because I thought they played really, really well to close it out. We played great in doubles, No. 3 doubles was fantastic, so that’s certainly really big for us moving forward. And McCartney (Kessler) was just clinical in her play. But I thought Auburn outplayed us in a few spots and put a lot of scoreboard pressure on us at the end. And I thought, frankly, that Sydney (Berlin) and Ida (Jarlskog) were gonna pull it out because we’ve been playing really tough tennis in the clutch. But, you know, Auburn just kept hitting balls by us at the end, which is very difficult to do under pressure and today we just got to give them credit, they did a really good job at the end. I’m proud of our effort, I know we’re disappointed but, you know, the doubles thing is gonna give us a lot of confidence and we’re looking forward to playing again next weekend. But today, Auburn was just a little bit better at the end.”
 
On adjustments being made going into the first home SEC weekend…
“I mean, look, the SEC is a really tough league. We’ve got teams in the SEC that are way under-ranked, in my view. I mean, I look at Auburn, I look at Tennessee, you know, I look at Ole Miss. I mean, there’s some teams there that should be in, you know, top 15 where other leagues have ranked in there that are not the same quality, in my view. So, we have always talked every year to our players that the real competitive cauldron in our schedule is going to be SEC, SEC road matches. So, I was happy with our play indoors on Friday and I thought we played really hard again today. But, you know, Auburn was just a little too good down the stretch and sometimes that happens. You know, they took advantage of playing at home and we fought like crazy, but they were just a little bit tougher than we were today.”