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Gators, Bulldogs, Aggies, Vols advance to semifinals

113 days ago
SEC Staff
Photo: SEC Staff

#3 Florida 4, #6 Vanderbilt 1

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - In their first match of the SEC Tournament, the Florida men's tennis team picked up a 4-1 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores to advance to Saturday's semifinal.

In the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, the Gators switched things up in both singles and doubles. In doubles, the Gators went with a new pair at the No. 2 spot with Alfredo Perez and Andy Andrade while in singles Oliver Crawford got his first taste on court one.

Florida has been dominant in doubles all season, and nearly unbeatable when they capture the crucial first point of the match. That dominance continued on Friday with McClain Kessler and Duarte Vale, playing at No. 1 doubles for the first time since Feb. 18, making quick work of their opponents with a 6-2 victory. Courts two and three went back and forth until Crawford and Perez-Blanco, on court three, put away their opponent with a 6-3 victory to clinch the doubles point for the Gators.

After an impressive showing in doubles, Florida kept up their strong play in singles. The Gators jumped out in front early against Vanderbilt to win the first set on five of the six courts. Set two didn't go as smooth as the first set, but the Gators rebounded quickly to take control of the match. After winning set one 6-2, Kessler fell behind in the second but never wavered, coming back to win 7-5 and giving the Gators a 2-0 lead in the match. After Vanderbilt picked up a point on court five, Crawford was able to extend the Gators lead to 3-1 with a 7-5, 7-5 straight sets victory over No. 28 Danny Valent at No. 1 singles. The deciding point came from Alfredo Perez on court two. After winning set one 6-1, Perez dropped set two 7-5, before quickly finding his form from the first set to run away with a 6-1 victory in set three and clinch the quarterfinal match for the Gators.

#2 Mississippi State 4, #10 Ole Miss 0

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - With a trip to the 2018 Southeastern Conference Championship semifinal round on the line, the second-seeded and ninth-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis team (18-2) had little trouble against in-state rival and 10th-seeded Ole Miss (14-12) Friday afternoon in MSU's opener in the tournament.

The Bulldogs blanked the Rebels, 4-0, in the SEC quarterfinals at the Alabama Tennis Stadium. MSU's win put the Bulldogs into the semifinal round for the fourth-straight year where they will face third-seeded and 10th-ranked Florida (16-8) Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.

"I thought today was a great start to our postseason," fourth-year head coach Matt Roberts said. "Ole Miss pushed us on number two and number three doubles, but we battled through the adversity to get a big win on court 3. In singles, I thought we were very sharp in our first sets and finished strong until the match was clinched. We're looking forward to another very tough match tomorrow in the semifinals and I know our team is ready for the challenge."

MSU's 15th-ranked duo of Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic were the first off the doubles courts once again on Friday, making quick work of Ole Miss' 46th-ranked Grey Hamilton and Tim Sandkaulen, 6-1, on court 1. The tandem has now won three in a row and six of its last seven. On court 2, the Rebels evened up the doubles count with a 6-1 win against MSU's 61st-ranked Niclas Braun and Giovanni Oradini by Zvonimir Babic and Filip Kraljevic. It was the first dual match loss of the year for the Bulldog tandem, halting a remarkable 12-match win streak.

State then got the triumph it needed when Florian Broska and Trevor Foshey held on a deciding point to go up 5-4 on court 3. The Bulldog tandem then broke Ole Miss' Fabian Fallert and Finn Reynolds at on a deciding point to clinch the doubles point for the Maroon and White. State has now won 13 of its last 15 doubles points and five in a row.

The Bulldogs got off to a very roaring start in singles, winning all six first sets. State went up 2-0 quickly with a 6-2, 6-2 victory for the 77th-ranked Rakic over UM's Fallert on court 3. Mere seconds later, Foshey gave the Bulldogs a commanding 3-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-1 win on court 6 against Rebel Cotter Wilson.

With a few close second frames being played, the MSU rookie Broska ultimately notched his 19th win of the year with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Ole Miss' Reynolds on court 5 to seal the victory for the Bulldogs.

The remaining three matches were suspended at the clincher. MSU's second-ranked and newly-minted SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Borges was up 6-4, 5-2 at the clincher, while State's Oradini was up a set and 3-2 at No. 2. On court 4, Braun was also up a set for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs have now won both matches against the Rebels in 2018 (in Oxford and Friday at the SECs), as well as eight of the last 12 meetings. When winning the doubles point, the Bulldogs are a stellar 13-2 this season.

#4 Tennessee 4, #12 Alabama 3

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Sophomore Luca Wiedenmann tied it up with a win on Court 6 before redshirt junior Preston Touliatos clinched the victory for the Vols at No. 5 as No. 21 Tennessee earned a come-from-behind 4-3 win over No. 50 Alabama in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal on Friday.

After dropping the doubles point, the Vols (20-7) were able to claw their way back and punch their ticket to the program's first semifinal in the conference tournament since 2013.

In singles, Alexey Nesterov picked up a quick 6-2, 6-1 win over Adam Walton to make it 2-0 in favor of the Crimson Tide (18-12). With UT needing an answer, senior Luis Valerostepped up and delivered a key win at No. 2 to put the Vols on the board.

Scott Jones would tie it at 2 with victory on Court 3. After edging out a tiebreak win in the first set, Jones put on a dominant display in the second, winning 6-1.

14th ranked Timo Stodder then fell to No. 18 Mazen Osama in a matchup of top 20 players as the Tide went ahead 3-2. As the two remaining matches came down the stretch, it was clear that the victory was up for the taking. On Court 6, Wiedenmann continued his hot second half of the season by coming away with a 6-3 win in the third set to tie the score.

All eyes then came down to the deciding match between Touliatos and Zhe Zhou, which was tied at 5-5. After holding serve to go up by a game, Touliatos was able to break Zhou and cap off the comeback for Tennessee.

Following the match, head coach Chris Woodruff attributed a survive-and-advance mentality as well as credited his lone senior for swinging momentum the Vols' way early in the singles matches.

"Really proud of our guys," Woodruff said. "Great atmosphere. In a tournament like this, you win, you stay alive, you lose, you go home. We are fortunate to have won. Luis Valero stepped up big."

#5 Texas A&M 4, #18 Georgia 0

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 5 Texas A&M men's tennis team swept No. 18 Georgia, 4-0, Friday afternoon in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at the Alabama Tennis Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Aggies advanced to the semifinals for the sixth straight season and will take on No. 21 Tennessee on Saturday at 2 p.m. for a place in Sunday's championship match.

The Maroon & White raced out to a 1-0 advantage, taking early breaks on all three doubles courts en route to 6-2 wins on courts one and two. No. 6 Jordi Arconada and Juan Carlos Aguilar bested No. 33 Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski on the top court followed by Arthur Rinderknech and AJ Catanzariti outwitting Wayne Montgomery and Nathan Ponwith on court two.

After gaining the momentum in the match, the Aggies did not look back as they swiftly capture four of six first sets in singles action. No. 71 Valentin Vacherot doubled the A&M advantage with the 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 93 Ponwith on court four.

Shortly after Vacherot's win, No. 7 Patrick Kypson bested No. 33 Montgomery 6-1, 6-4 on court one to increase the A&M advantage to 3-0. No. 48 Arconada clinched the win on court three with a convincing 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 64 Emil Peinberg.