Kentucky Falls in SEC Title Match to Host Florida

April 24, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The 11th-ranked University of Kentucky men’s tennis team could not defeat its third top-20 opponent in as many days, falling 4-0 to No. 17 Florida in the championship match of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Center in Gainesville, Fla., on Sunday

The finals appearance for Kentucky (26-8) was its second in school history and its first since 1992. UK is now 1-1 all-time in SEC Tournament finals. The Wildcats won the tournament in 1992.

Seniors Brad Cox and Alberto Gonzalez were named to the all-tournament team for their impressive tournament play. Cox teamed up with junior Eric Quigley to take down two top-30 ranked doubles duos, while going 1-1 in singles action. Gonzalez was also solid for UK, winning a key doubles match Saturday in the win against Georgia and going 2-1 in singles.

Although UK fell in the finals, the tournament run from beginning to end was historic for the UK program. Kentucky defeated two top-20 teams at the event, including No. 5 Georgia. The win over the Bulldogs was the first for Kentucky since the 2003 season and its first outside of Lexington since 1997. It also broke the school record for wins in a single season and marked the first time in the modern era of the program that Kentucky has set a school record for wins in consecutive seasons.

“We are very disappointed to lose but we felt we had some opportunities to win after winning four first sets in singles,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “Any time you beat a great program like Georgia, it takes a lot out of you emotionally. I thought that we emotionally gave everything that we had today, but against a good team like Florida that wasn’t going to be enough today.

“We want to take what lessons we can out of this match and look forward to the NCAA Tournament where we hope we can make a deep run.”

The match started with Florida claiming the doubles point. The Gators took the first completed match of the day at No. 2 doubles when Billy Federhofer and Nassim Slilam took down No. 83 Gonzalez and freshman Tom Jomby 8-4.

Kentucky would then respond at No. 1 doubles getting an upset victory from No. 35 Cox and junior Eric Quigley. The UK duo went back and forth, holding serve with No. 29 Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Alexandre Lacroix until they were able to get a break to go up 6-4. Cox would hold to make it 7-4 before the Wildcat duo broke Florida for the second consecutive time to claim the match 8-4. The win was the second consecutive for the UK duo over a top-30 ranked team and the fourth in the last seven matches.

Florida claimed the doubles point at court No. 3 when Andrew Butz and Bob van Overbeek took down junior Alex Musialek and sophomore Anthony Rossi 8-5. Kentucky is now 7-5 when it drops the doubles point.

Kentucky took four of the six first sets in singles and looked to be in position to make a comeback, but the Gators would respond by winning the second set on all six courts. Florida took a 2-0 lead in the match when van Overbeek defeated No. 83 Gonzalez 6-2, 6-4 at No. 4 singles and then went up 3-0 after No. 44 Bangoura took down No. 52 Musialek at No. 2 singles. UF clinched the match at No. 3 singles when No. 93 Slilam won a three-set heartbreaker over Cox 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Three singles matches did not finish, with all three playing in the third set. At No. 1 singles, No. 4 Quigley had just broke No. 8 Lacroix to tie the third set 4-4, while Rossi held serve to stay up a break 4-2 at No. 5 singles. Jomby and Florida’s Spencer Newman were knotted at 1-1 in the third after Jomby had won a tiebreaker in the first set and Newman took the second 6-3.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Florida, their coaching staff and players for how great they played this weekend,” Emery said. “They have had some adversity and injuries and got better throughout the year and are peaking at the right time. We have also done that and are starting to really play well, but they were just a little bit better at home.”

UK will now wait to hear about an at-large selection into the NCAA Tournament. The selections for the tournament will be broadcast live on on May 3 at 5:30 p.m. ET.

SEC Tournament Championship - April 24, 2011
#17 Florida 4, #11 Kentucky 0
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex - Gainesville, Fla.
1 – #35 Cox/Quigley (UK) def. #29 Bangoura/Lacroix (UF) 8-4 (:52)
2 – Federhofer/Slilam (UF) def. #83 Gonzalez/Jomby (UK) 8-4 (:45)
3 – *Butz/van Overbeek (UF) def. Musialek/Rossi (UK) 8-5 (:59)
Order of finish: 2-1-3
1 – #8 Alexandre Lacroix (UF) vs. #4 Eric Quigley (UK) 4-6, 6-2, 4-4 (DNF)
2 – #44 Sekou Bangoura Jr. (UF) def. #52 Alex Musialek (UK) 6-4, 6-4 (2:09)
3 – *#93 Nassim Slilam (UF) def. Brad Cox (UK) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 (2:14)
4 – Bob van Overbeek def. #83 Alberto Gonzalez (UK) 6-2, 6-4 (1:22)
5 – #123 Anthony Rossi (UK) led Billy Federhofer (UF) 6-3, 4-6, 4-2 (DNF)
6 – Spencer Newman (UF) vs. Tom Jomby (UK) 6-7(10), 6-3, 1-1 (DNF)
Order of finish: 4-2-3
All-Tournament Team
Brad Cox, Kentucky
Alberto Gonzalez, Kentucky
*Alexandre Lacroix, Florida
Tennys Sandgren, Tennessee
Nassim Slilam, Florida
Ignacio Taboada, Georgia