Florida's McClain Kessler

Florida’s McClain Kessler celebrates after his clinching win over Mississippi St. on Friday. (Tamara Dobry, UF Athletics)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 16 Florida men’s tennis team knocked off No. 17 Mississippi State at home on Friday night (April 14), coming back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Bulldogs 4-3.

With this win, Florida ties Mississippi State for third place in the SEC. The Gators are looking to keep a standing in the top four to earn a bye in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

In doubles play, the Bulldogs earned a win on Court 2, as Cutura/Hunter defeated Maxx Lipman and Elliott Orkin 6-4 on Court 2. The Gators fought back on Court 3, as Joshua Wardell and Chase Perez-Blanco won a tiebreak 9-7 to take the match 7-6.

Mississippi State ultimately clinched the doubles point with a win on Court 1, as No. 6 Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez fell in a tiebreak to No. 27 Niclas Braun and Trevor Foshey.

In singles play, the Bulldogs had an early advantage with wins in the No. 1 and No. 4 positions, giving them a 3-0 lead.

Perez-Blanco earned the first team point for the Gators with a ranked win against No. 123 Strahinja Rakic on Court 3. No. 77 Orkin followed close behind on Court 2, defeating Mate Cutura 7-5, 6-2 to close the Bulldogs’ lead 3-2, and to earn his 99thcareer singles win.

With only two matches remaining, the clinching point came down to the fifth and sixth courts. Ingildsen’s battle with Giovanni Oradini went into three sets, where the freshman was able to pull away and earn a win for the Gators, tying up the team score 3-3.

Former Calhoun High standout McClain Kessler and Trevor Foshey fought a close battle on Court 6, splitting the first two sets to send the match into a third. Kessler was able to stay ahead of his opponent to clinch the match for the Gators, winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. This was the sophomore’s first home match since February, as he has been out for most of the conference season with an injury.

Quoting Head Coach Bryan Shelton: On what a win like this means to the team…“What a great performance from our team with the fight that they showed and their resilience. We certainly didn’t play our best tennis tonight, but it really wasn’t about that. It was more about just showing our true character, and I think that was displayed tonight in the way we came back from the 3-0 deficit.”

“Mississippi State is a tough group and they fight really hard, and they certainly were going after us like they had nothing to lose tonight. And our guys were able to withstand the challenge. I’m just really proud of our team.”

On McClain Kessler’s clinching singles point… “It was a pretty special night for McClain, who’s kind of our emotional leader. A guy that just really bleeds orange and blue, for him to be in that situation tonight was pretty fitting. He’s been out for several weeks now, so for him to have his first match back at home since his injury and to be the clincher tonight is just great to see.”

“That’s why we recruited him, we knew he had some special abilities and we knew he was a gamer. And he certainly was a gamer tonight, because when it really mattered the most he really elevated his game. And I think that’s what great players do.”

Kessler wins again in Florida’s victory vs. Auburn

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 16 Florida men’s tennis team wrapped up its regular season with a 7-0 sweep of Auburn on Sunday afternoon (April 16). The Gators finished the 2017 season with a 9-3 SEC record, which is the third-best in the conference.

With its two wins this weekend, Florida earned a No. 3 seed for the SEC Tournament, to be held later this month.

In doubles play, the Tigers earned the first win as Joshua Wardell and Chase Perez-Blanco fell to Sarrio/Huertas 6-3 on Court 3.

The Gators came back with a win to split the matches as No. 6 Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez defeated Nguyen/Laubser 6-3 on Court 1.

With the doubles point in the hands of Court 2, seniors Maxx Lipman and Elliott Orkin pulled out a 6-4 win over AU’s Saleh/Thestrup to clinch the point for Florida.

After clinching the doubles point, Lipman and Orkin were recognized on the court as a part of the Senior Day celebration. The two competed in their final regular-season dual match on Sunday afternoon.

In singles play, former Calhoun high standout McClain Kessler earned the first singles point for the Gators with a quick 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Michael Durham. With a 2-0 lead over the Tigers, three courts finished back-to-back to clinch the match for the Gators and give Florida a 5-0 lead. Perez defeated Carles Sarrio on Court 1, Ingildsen clinched the match with a win over Brandon Laubser, and Lipman followed up with a win on Court 4 to propel the Gators to its eventual sweep.

Up Next for the Gators: With the next week off of competitions, Florida will focus on the SEC Tournament, which will be held April 26-29 in Knoxville, Tenn. The Gators earned a No. 3 seed in the tournament, and will face the winner of Ole Miss/Auburn on Friday, April 28.