Shelton’s Steady Hand Sets Gators for Title Defense

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — So, how was your 2021? 

Poll the general population (or anyone around the world) for(or any other matter), and the answer would likely be “Well, it pretty much sucked.” 

Bryan Shelton, Florida’s men’s tennis coach, and his team. 

Let’s review:

* The GatorsThey went 26-2 and won the Southeastern Conference regular season title. Then, they rolled through to the NCAA Tournament as No. 1. 1 seed and captured the first national championship in program history — in Orlando, no less — with a stirring 4-1 comeback defeat of second-ranked Baylor. 

* The national title-clinching point came on Court 5, where Ben Shelton, the coach’s freshman son, rallied from down a set and launched off an emotional celebration, capped by a tearful embrace between father and son. 

* Five days later, junior team captain and sixth-seeded Sam Riffice upset No. In the NCAA singles semifinals, Kentucky’s No. 1 seed Liam Draxl won in three sets. The next day, No. South Carolina’s 2nd seed Daniel Rodrigues won the singles title in Florida. He bounced back from dropping the first set and claimed the third crown in Florida singles history. Riffice won his championship just five miles away from Orlando, where he was born. 

* In June, the International Tennis Association named Bryan Shelton its Coach of the Year and Ben Shelton its Southeast Regional Rookie of the Year.  

* Three weeks after the record-making 2021 season, Shelton’sEmma, Emma’s little girl, announced that she was moving from South Carolina to finish her two remaining collegiate seasons. for UF women’s coach Roland Thornqvist, thus reuniting the entire Shelton family back in Gainesville. 

It’s your turn. 

Ben SheltonThe coach’s son, Jeremy, had a great freshman season in 2021.

Shelton said, “It has been overwhelming,” this week. “I was just thinking, “How could one person be blessed so much in one lifetime?” 

Actually, in one year. Even though the calendar may have been flipped a few weeks ago, the great times of 2021 are now being replaced by mega-expectations for 2022. GatorsThe nation’s No. 1 team will be starting the outdoor season this weekend. With a pair of top-5 road matches, the No. 1-ranked team will be joined by a pair at No. 5 Texas Christian, and Sunday’s match at No. 3 Texas. Next weekend, UF’s first home match will be against UCF. 

Finally, the Gators get into their SEC slate, they’ll play a schedule — “Murderers’ Row,” Shelton called it — that features 11 regular-season dates against ranked opponents currently in the ITA Top 25, including four against the top 10. However, UF will be armed forIt was quite a task, with five of its six top singles player returning from last year, including Riffice (who posted an impressive 32-7 record in 21), and Shelton (28.5-5) both who had fantastic summers. Duarte Vae, who was 26-7 while playing No. Andy Andrade (28-8, mostly at No. 3 and Josh Goodger (22-0 perfect, mostly at No. 5). 

Add a few returnees to the mix for depth, plus accomplished Michigan grad-transfer Mattias Siimar (17-6 playing Nos. 2-4 last season), as well as a few heralded freshmen and the GatorsIt would appear that the company has all the necessary materials to produce another run. 

“It is so competitive here. Everyone is always fighting forRiffice stated that they would be taking Riffice’s spot. “Some of these new guys have a lot more game than the older guys and they can take a spot for one of them, so that’s a lot motivating.” forThe fourth or fifth guy to not have a bad week in practice.” 

Shelton wants his team to be there, not just reminiscing about the May celebrations. Riffice stated that the team now knows what it takes for a title, and it begins with understanding the lengths of seasons that bring one heavy-hitting competitor after the other. 

Riffice stated that “We’re focusing on this weekend.” “We all have a mindset of winning it again, but aren’t looking too far ahead.” 

Shelton gained some insight into how to manage prosperity while he was a Georgia Tech women’s coach. He led the Yellow Jackets to the 2007 National Championship, the only NCAA-sanctioned title. forAny sport in Tech history. 

It was what he accomplished at Tech — winning a women’s title at an engineering school that is overwhelmingly populated by men — that caught the eye of UF athletic director Jeremy Foley when we went looking to fill the Gators”Vacancy in 2012 It all worked out. 


The 2021 NCAA champions raise their hardware.

Shelton sought Foley out last summer to discuss the challenges and pitfalls of defending a championship. Foley was able to point out some examples. Examples:  Billy Donovan, whose men’s basketball team historically went back-to-back in ’06-07; football coach Urban Meyer, who won national titles in ’06 and ’08, but fell short in their defenses. 

“One thing he said to me was to have fun. Shelton explained that you need to have fun with it, and not feel it as a burden. But it’s something you enjoy every day. Going out and playing, developing, and getting more better. Treating everyone equally. Learning from your experiences, enjoying the relationships you build and focusing on the right things. So that’s my view.

This is no surprise. Since he arrived at Florida, Shelton has been as no-nonsense and locked in on the so-called “process” as any coach on campus. He didn’t inherit a wonderful situation. Not even close. It took time to build and nurture the culture he longed for. for. Shelton won’t compromise what he demands from his players each day now that he has found it.

Riffice said, “Coach can be tough, but he is fair.” Riffice said, “Coach is tough, but he’s fair.” But winning as a group is great. What is important is to develop each one of us and promote the Gator name. He focuses on that.” 

Both are in a good place at the moment. 

Happy 2022! Gators. See how happy you can be. 

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