GAINESVILLE, Florida. – It was a chilly afternoon at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex on Sunday afternoon, but that didn’t stop Florida Women’s Tennis from putting in a strong performance to end a two-game losing skid, beating No. 16 Tennessee, 4-1.

Sunday’s match began with a hotly contested doubles competition. Lady Vols (8-4, 2-2 SEC) took an early 1-0 lead after Esther Adeshina and Elza Tomase beat No. 18 Alicia Dudeney and Bente Spee, 6-1, on court two. The Gators (9-4, 2-2 SEC) wasted no time in the evening scoring, however, as the team’s three-double de McCartney Kessler and Emma Shelton made quick work of their opponents, 6-1.

All eyes turned to the first court for the doubles deciding point, where a top-10 doubles match was taking place. Team No. 6 Carly Briggs and Marlee Zein opened a 4-1 lead over No. 10 Tenika McGiffin and Daria Kuczer. A battle-tested duo, the Lady Vols would smash the Orange & Blue, shooting 4-3 before trading games to put the Gators ahead, 5-4. Zein would use a big return of serve to once again smash the Lady Vols and win the match, 6-4, giving UF a 1-0 lead on aggregate.

Needing three singles wins to claim the match, No.55 Zein got the Orange and Blue off to a good start. Facing No. 73 Tomase, Zein took a one-set lead, taking the opener 6-3 after being tied 3-3 to start. The senior was down, 2-3, at the start of the second set, but clinched four straight games to win the set and the match, 6-3, on court three.

The Lady Volunteers scored their first point of the day on court four, as Adeshina managed to get past Briggs 6-3, 6-1, but the visitors’ momentum did not last long. On center court, No. 39 Kessler put in a strong performance against No. 31 Rebeka Mertena in a battle between two of the nation’s best. The match, in which no competitor would hold out by more than two games, was a back-and-forth affair. Finding themselves in a 4-4 stalemate in the second set, Kessler managed to break Mertena to take a 5-4 lead, but the opposition would return the favor in the next game.

Kessler, no stranger to elite competition, put the Lady Vol on her heels in the next game, taking a 40-15 lead to help regain the lead once again, 6-5. The Calhoun, Georgia native finished the job in the next game, winning the match, 6-4, 7-5.

Sara Dahlstrom would play the deciding role for the home side but would need to pick up a win from behind to do so. Eleonora Molinaro pushed the second player early to the singles six position, bursting to a 6-3 win in one set. Dahlstrom stayed calm and used back-to-back dominant sets to put the match together: 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Florida will hit the road next weekend when they travel to Columbia, Mo. for a game in Missouri on Friday, March 18. The Gators will wrap up the weekend on the road in Fayetteville, Ark., for a one-on-one on Sunday. head against Arkansas.


No. 39 McCartney Kessler def. No. 31 Rebeka Mertena: 6-4, 7-5
Alicia Dudeney against No. 45 Tenika McGiffin: 0-6, 6-4, 4-2 unf.
No. 55 Marlee Zein def. No. 73 Elza Tomase: 6-3, 6-3
Esther Adeshina won. Carly Briggs: 6-3, 6-1
Emma Shelton against Daria Kuczer: 7-6(5), 4-3 unf.
Sara Dahlstrom def. Eleonora Molinaro: 3-6, 6-2, 6-1


Number 6 Carly Briggs/Marlee Zein def. No. 10 Tenika McGiffin/Daria Kuczer: 6-4
Esther Adeshina/Elza Tomase won. #18 Alicia Dudeny /Bente Spee: 1-6
McCartney Kessler/Emma Shelton def. Eleonora Molinaro/Rebeka Mertena: 6-1

The head coach Roland Thornqvist
In Friday’s game…

“We talked in the locker room and as a team, we are always looking for, I don’t mean a perfect performance, but a performance where everyone is playing at a high level. I felt like so far in the season we’ve had four out of six or maybe three out of six and I think we’re all in agreement that we’re getting closer to everybody’s finish.”

On the fight against early deficits…

“What I like today is that we had a few players who maybe didn’t play well in an opening set, but weren’t shaken. They went straight back to the business and kept plugging in and plugging in. These performances mean more to me than when we feel the ball good and hit winners while playing great. To win the SEC you have to be thick-skinned, you have to be tough. You have to be able to win under pressure and I was happy to see Liss (Alicia Dudeney) and Sara (Dahlstrom), in particular, do that and Emma here against a really tough contender, which is their best point for Tennessee. Just a lot of positives today.”

On consistency Kessler provides…

“Obviously McCartney won, we talked about her in the locker room because she always delivers for us all the time and it’s so easy to forget what she puts up, but she’s clearly l one of the best players in America and we are very lucky to have her playing one for us.”

On how the Gators will move forward…

“What we discussed in the dressing room was that the group, numbers 12 to 20, that we feel like we’re doing well against now. It’s the teams that are in the top 10 where we have to have a fuller performance and I think we’re getting closer to that. To beat Georgia, if we see them again, we’re going to have to get everyone playing at a reasonably high level and I think we can do that. Training has improved a lot over the past few weeks and those green shoes usually take a bit of time to show up, but we’re happy with today’s win because of the way we won.”

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