The Florida Gators women’s tennis team released its schedule for the upcoming 2011-12 season with arguably one of the nation’s toughest schedules as the Gators will face four teams that finished ranked among the nation’s top six last season.
After winning the 2011 NCAA Team Championship and sweeping the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament and its regular season titles, the Gators will test themselves throughout the year against Stanford, Duke, North Carolina and Baylor, which finished No. 2, 3, 4 and 6, respectively in the final 2011 ITA Rankings.
“Coupled with the very tough SEC schedule, we wanted to put together a high quality, non-conference schedule,” said head coach Roland Thornqvist, who enters his 11th season in the position. “Adding Stanford to the usual top teams we play annually is good for college tennis. The last few years we’ve shown that we’ve been the top two teams in the country and that we now will play during the regular season will be good for the sport.
“We’ve been trying to schedule a regular-season match against each other for the last few years and it was always difficult because of the dates we had to set aside to compete in the National Team Indoor Championships,” Thornqvist continued. “We finally decided to try this instead of playing the Indoors for the next two years and see how it works.”
The last time both teams scheduled a regular-season matchup was 19 years ago, when Stanford traveled to Gainesville on March 24, 1993 and the second-ranked Gators upended the then-top-ranked Cardinal, 5-1. Stanford will play Florida in Gainesville during the 2012-13 regular season.
Florida returns all eight scholarship players from last year’s championship team, begins its SEC season on March 2 at Tennessee (No. 17 in the 2011 final ranking), before playing two days later at Georgia, which finished eighth in last year’s final rankings.
The Gators play host to Vanderbilt (No. 16), Kentucky, Ole Miss, Arkansas (No. 22) and LSU in league action, while traveling to face Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina.
“The SEC will be as tough as it’s ever been,” Thornqvist said. “Although the league lost some quality players from last year, it seems every team got stronger by adding some quality players to the mix. There are going to be a number of teams vying for that SEC Championship again.”
Prior to the exciting dual-match slate, Florida is set to compete in six individual tournaments, which includes hosting the ITA Southeast Region Championships, Oct. 21-24. That four-day event held at the Ring Tennis Complex will serve as a feeder for the singles and doubles champions into the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, considered the second-leg of the collegiate grand slam.