A Perfect End to Gators’ Championship Journey

Nichole S. Gehr
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The swing on the scoreboard occurred so rapidly that it left you dizzy. Down a stage following shedding in doubles to Baylor, the Florida men’s tennis team took the direct in a make any difference of about 60 seconds when Andy Andrade, Sam Riffice and Josh Goodger won their singles matches in bang-bang-bang fashion.

And then, following the senses aligned appropriately the moment extra and Saturday night departed and Sunday morning arrived, the probability of an ending far too cringey for Hollywood loomed inescapable.

Certainly, this was true, the Gators ended up going to earn the most important prize of all. No surprise ending there thinking of their position as the No. 1 all round seed.

Still, the script enjoying out on the courts of the USTA Nationwide Campus in Orlando featured a special twist. UF freshman Ben Shelton, a impressive left-hander and son of veteran head mentor Bryan Shelton, experienced burst from behind the curtain to steal the last scene.

Riding a wave of momentum in his No. 5 singles match versus Baylor’s Charlie Broom, Youthful Shelton blasted again just after dropping the initial established against Broom to clinch Florida’s 4-1 get more than the Bears and, far more importantly, the initial national championship in the program’s record.

In an prompt, agony and ecstasy gulped the midnight air. As the Bears slumped at the death of their aspiration, the Gators erupted in unbridled pleasure. Consider your decide of snapshots: Younger Shelton jumping the web and catching volunteer assistant coach Scott Perelman in an embrace. His teammates dashing the court docket as Gators supporters screamed in the stands over. Dad Shelton hugging assistant mentor Tanner Stump and everyone with a pulse.

It all happened all around 10 right after midnight, igniting an Orange & Blue bash they are going to be talking about for a long time at the tennis elaborate off SW 2nd Ave.

“Practically nothing was heading to halt us,” Father Shelton stated.&#13

Shelton, Bryan (2021 NCAA Championship)&#13
Gators head mentor Bryan Shelton usually takes a minute to appear at the NCAA Championship trophy, the initially in plan record. (Photo: Courtney Culbreath/UAA Communications)

In spite of the way the night commenced – Florida’s reduction in doubles developed question for numerous of the Gators followers tuning in to the Tennis Channel for the Gators’ very first overall look in the NCAA Championship – people in fact on the courtroom never ever blinked.

They just understood. They failed to know that Younger Shelton would clinch the match in a designed-for-Tv set instant, but they were being confident this was a staff crafted for the second.

“Absolutely everyone thinks that is the finish of the globe,” Riffice stated of getting rid of the doubles point. “But when you have 6 outstanding singles players, it can be not. We’ve been performing it all calendar year. I have comprehensive religion we’re heading to win all six singles each and every time we action on the court.”

How self-confident?

“Super, super self-assured. I experienced a huge smile on my face just after we misplaced the doubles place, figuring out that this is heading to be a pleasurable match, it really is going to be a battle,” Mentor Shelton mentioned. “But we have bought the men to do it.”

Riffice’s victory more than Matias Soto in No. 2 singles put the Gators in entrance, 2-1, seconds after Andrade’s win around Sven Lah at No. 3 singles tied the match. Goodger’s earn at No. 6 singles about Spencer Furman tuned everyone’s awareness to Ben Shelton’s match.

He did not disappointment, furnishing the Gators and his dad with a unforgettable win to slumber on.

“This crew produced it so easy,” Ben mentioned. “Whenever I’m out there and I am seeking down the courts not figuring out how it truly is likely to come out and what’s heading to materialize at the finish of the match, it tends to make it so effortless to just struggle recognizing each solitary dude out there is battling so challenging. They don’t require my issue and I can just participate in freely. It truly is a actually wonderful emotion to be out there with them.”

For his breakout job in the Last 4, Ben Shelton was named the Most Remarkable Participant on the NCAA Tournament Crew. When his father took the Florida job right after the 2012 year, Ben had other programs. He didn’t imagine following in his dad’s footsteps. Bryan was a standout college participant at Georgia Tech who later used nine decades enjoying on the ATP Tour.

“It wasn’t but six or seven many years ago, this male was a soccer participant,” explained Father Shelton, seated following to his son with the NCAA Championship trophy involving them at the postmatch press meeting. “Tennis wasn’t heading to be his sport. A thing flipped and he begun coming out and coaching. I believe God experienced a strategy for him. To see him establish and get to this stage and be able to perform on a workforce like this … for him to be a important component of that, it is seriously, seriously amazing.

“And to see him glow on the major phase below the lights, I am just truly, definitely very pleased of him, proud of our fellas.”

The Gators’ championship journey may possibly have had a fairy-tale ending, but they did it the previous-fashioned way. They pounded the stone. They confirmed up each working day to do the job and increase, profitable the Southeastern Conference frequent-time on the way to outscoring their 6 opponents in the NCAA Event, 24-3.

The UF program is no stranger to achievements, but the final acquire experienced eluded the Gators because they to start with shuffled onto a courtroom and started off hitting balls in 1940. The Gators had been amongst the Last 4 groups standing a few preceding times, but experienced dropped in the countrywide semifinals each individual time, like two years in the past to Texas.

In an additional meeting with the Longhorns in the nationwide semifinals, the Gators swept them on Friday night time, location up Saturday’s showdown with the Bears. This time, they would not be denied, creating Shelton the very first coach in NCAA background to guide a men’s and women’s method (Ga Tech, 2007) to a nationwide title.

Twenty-one particular years after he started off his coaching job and 14 since he very last hoisted a countrywide championship trophy, Shelton is just one of the game’s most highly regarded associates. Stylish, humble, the sort of man you want teaching boys how to turn into men.

His boy took a huge move in that route in the NCAA Match. It truly is a moment his father is not going to overlook. A championship the Gators will savor.

“When I came to Florida, the mission was let’s try out to seriously create the lifestyle, the character, to a put exactly where it’s something we can be very pleased of, recognizing that we are shifting guys’ lives in the correct path, and we are also supporting them develop into better tennis players,” Bryan mentioned. “If we do things the ideal way for very long enough, then good items we are going to eventually come about. That is kind of been our motto.”

The hold out was so really worth it.

The payoff an instantaneous classic in the annals of Gators lore.

“It is been a course of action for years,” reported Duarte Vale, 1 of the team’s captains. “It’s kind of our work to preserve passing together that lifestyle so this thing keeps shifting. I will not even know how to act. It could not feel a lot more special. To do it with the folks that we did it with, there’s no phrases.”

Probably not now. But in time, they will want to reminisce about this just one.

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