Florida (23-2) came out strong again in doubles play against the Wildcats (21-7), earning their 18th-consecutive doubles point. After providing the clinching doubles match yesterday against No. 5 Tennessee, the tandem of Nate Bonetto and Duarte Vale continued their winning ways with a 6-3 victory over No. 55 Liam Draxl and Alexandre Leblanc at court three, making it their first ranked doubles win of the season.
Clinching the team’s 20th doubles point of the season was the No. 10-ranked duo of Sam Riffice and Ben Shelton at court one. Taking on No. 75 Francois Musitelli and Millen Hurrion, the Gators duo only allowed their opponents to win two games for a 6-2 victory. They now have 15 total doubles wins on the season with nine coming against ranked teams.
Needing three singles wins to claim the SEC Tournament title, the Gators put their foot on the gas and never let up, claiming five of the six first sets.
First off the court was No. 116 player Josh Goodger, who pulled off an impressive straight-set win at court six against JJ Mercer, 6-4, 6-1. With this victory, Goodger reached the 100 career singles wins milestone and totals 17 singles wins on the year.
No. 27 Riffice had one of his best matches of the year as he took on No. 16 Gabriel Diallo at court two, winning in two sets by 6-3 scores. Riffice moves to 18-5 on the dual season and 15-1 at the two position, while adding his seventh ranked victory.
It was No. 1-ranked Shelton, who for the sixth time this year, would clinch the match for the Gators. Taking on No. 8 Draxl at the one spot, Shelton had a tall task ahead of him, but stepped up big time. The Gainesville native defeated the Wildcat by a score of 6-4, 7-5 for his 30th singles win and 20th ranked victory of the season.
Florida moves to 23-2 overall and extends their win streak to 18 matches. The Gators are also 19-2 against ranked teams and have an impressive nine wins over teams in the top-10. In addition, for the third time in Florida tennis history, the Gators won both the regular season and SEC Tournament in the same year (2000, 2005, 2022).
- Florida made its 11th SEC Tournament final appearance, winning its sixth tournament title in program history and first since 2016.
- Florida won the SEC Tournament championship in 1994, 2000, 2005, 2011, 2016 and 2022.
- Ben Shelton joins Jeff Morrison (2000), Ryan Sherry (2005), Alexandre Lacroix (2011) and Gordon Watson (2016) to win the SEC Tournament MVP award.
- Senior Duarte Vale was also named to the All-Tournament team.
- The Gators move to 2-0 against the Wildcats in the championships finals as Florida faced Kentucky one other time in 2011, pulling out a 4-0 win in that match.
- Since 2000 when the SEC began awarding a regular season title, Florida was the conference champions in both the regular season and in the SEC Tournament three different times: 2000, 2005 and 2022.
Florida Head Coach Bryan Shelton
On being SEC Champions…
“This is the best conference in America, it really is. When you look at this league, when you look at it top to bottom, top-10 teams, top-20 teams. I mean we’ll have more teams in the NCAA tournament than any other conference for sure. On top of that, it’s humbling. We represent the best conference in the country, so to kind of lead the way in our conference is pretty special. It’s something that we think is a responsibility that we have to go out there every single time and give our very best and have our best character, be the best sports and compete as hard as we possibly can. This is fun for all of us to be a part of this.”
On the tournament…
“It was gritty; three days of competition, but so much fun. We had perfect weather, we a lot of fans that came out to support, Georgia did a great job hosting this event. So, it was just a lot of fun for us to be here throughout this weekend and to have such perfect weather. It is just a blessing to be able to compete on a stage like this.”
Florida sophomore Ben Shelton
On his last point to clinch the match…
“It was definitely electric having all my teammates next to me on the sidelines. They definitely pushed me over the finish line. It was a high-pressure situation, and I was glad to get out of it with a win and an SEC title for us.”
On what it means to be an SEC Champion particularly with his father as the coach…
“It means a lot. Obviously, this group hasn’t won an SEC tournament. The last time the Florida Gators did it was 2016, so it’s special to be able to send our five seniors off with one last title.”
On how he feels going into the NCAA tournament…
“I feel great. I think our team is really ready to make a deep run and be a contender. I think that everyone is really mentally tough, and hopefully we’re going to come out on top.”
UP NEXT: The Gators look to the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, which will take place on Monday, May 2 at 6 p.m.
- #1 Ben Shelton (UF) def. #8 Liam Draxl (UK), 6-4, 7-5
- #27 Sam Riffice (UF) def. #16 Gabriel Diallo (UK), 6-3, 6-3
- #87 Duarte Vale (UF) vs. #102 Millen Hurrion (UK), 6-2, 4-6, unfinished
- #122 Andy Andrade (UF) vs. Francois Musitelli (UK), 6-7 (7-9), 4-2, unfinished
- Mattias Siimar (UF) vs. #108 Joshua Lapadat (UK), 6-4, 4-3, unfinished
- #116 Josh Goodger (UF) def. JJ Mercer (UK), 6-4, 6-1
Order of Finish: 6, 2, 1
- #10 Sam Riffice/Ben Shelton (UF) def. #75 Francois Musitelli/Millen Hurrion (UK), 6-2
- #37 Andy Andrade/Mattias Siimar (UF) vs. Gabriel Diallo/Joshua Lapadat (UK), 4-5, unfinished
- Duarte Vale/Nate Bonetto (UF) def. Liam Draxl/Alexandre LeBlanc (UK), 6-3
Order of Finish: 3, 1
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