The second-ranked University of Florida women’s tennis team endured the freezing temperature and a feisty South Florida squad and earned a 5-2 victory Tuesday evening at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex.
After winning the doubles point, Florida (5-0) found itself in a stern battle on the majority of the singles courts, where only sophomore Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) took charge from the beginning of her No. 1 singles match against 24th-ranked Irene Rehberger. The second-year Gator began her match by breaking Rehberger at love and winning the first seven games. The first four games of the second were breaks and the set was on-serve until the seventh game, which Embree won, before holding at love and earning one final break to secure the 6-0, 6-3 win.
“I thought I played a lot better today than I have been,” Embree shared. “I knew our competition was a lot better and I was going to have to step up my game. (Rehberger) really played better in the second set and we had some close games, so winning that 4-3 game was big. USF is a good team and has improved a lot from last year. This will help us in our next matches, as every one of our opponents will be better.”
Freshman Alex Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) was the next Gator off the court, as she earned a 6-2, 6-3 victory against Alessandra Bonte at the No. 5 position. The first five games were breaks, as the Florida rookie emerged with the 4-2 lead, before breaking against and serving out for the opening frame. Cercone began the second with a break and held, as the rest of the set was on-serve, before the newcomer broke one more time in the ninth game to secure the victory and give Florida a 3-0 lead in the team scoring.
After those first 73 minutes of singles action, the outcome on the remaining four courts was very much in doubt.
The No. 6 singles match featuring UF sophomore Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) was the fifth to complete its first set, as Hitimana emerged with the lead after multiple hard-fought games against Kate Parker. The two traded breaks twice and Hitimana was able to stave off several break points and hold for 4-3. She then broke Parker and served out at love for the first set. Hitimana took a 3-0 lead behind a pair of breaks to start the second. Parker earned one of the breaks back, but Hitimana broke right back at love to take a 4-1 lead and didn’t look back as she earned the 6-3, 6-1 victory and clinched the dual match win for Florida, eight minutes shy of the two-hour mark.
USF’s redshirt junior Janette Bejlkova provided the Bulls their first team point, as she outlasted Gator freshman Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.), 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (12-10) in a three-set, 10-point super-tiebreak. Bejlkova jumped out fast in the deciding 10-point breaker, but Janowicz fought back and staved off one match point, but couldn’t the second in her first dual match singles setback.
Junior Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) seemingly trailed early in both sets against Loreto Alonso on court No. 3, where she eventually captured the 7-5, 6-4 victory in one hour and 54 minutes. Mather was down a break to start both sets, including a 3-0 hole in the second, but clawed her way back both times for the straight set victory.
USF’s Ecaterina Vasenina captured the remaining singles decision, handing freshman Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) a 6-2, 7-6 (2) loss at the No. 2 spot.
“I was really pleased with our doubles play tonight,” said UF head coach Roland Thornqvist, who earned his 297th career win. “In singles we were tested on almost every court. While players don’t like to lose, our two freshmen who lost today learned a lot. This South Florida team thought they could beat us and it was really good to have that kind of competition heading into this weekend’s matches against North Carolina and Duke, as well as the rest of the season.”
The Gators convincingly won the doubles point, with all three matches finishing within one minute of each other, as Florida took the 1-0 lead in the team scoring in 44 minutes.
UF’s No. 2 pair of Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather raced to a 6-1 lead against 45th-ranked Loreto Alonso and Janette Bejlkova, before the Bulls broke in the eighth game. Those two games were the start of five consecutive breaks that ended the match, as the Gators earned the 8-3 victory.
The freshmen duo of Alex Cercone and Olivia Janowicz then clinched the doubles point with its 8-2 decision against Alessandra Bonte and Kate Parker, as the Gator tandem earned breaks in the second, seventh and ninth games before Cercone served out for the 44-minute victory.
Moments afterward, UF’s top-ranked team of Sofie Oyen and Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) polished off its 8-3 win against USF’s 25th-ranked Loreto Alonso and Janette Bejlkova. The Gator pair, which won its 14th consecutive match while improving to 14-1, picked up momentum midway through the 8-game pro-set, breaking three straight times, while Oyen and Will both held at love to take a 6-1 lead and didn’t look back, as the Gators broke one final time at love in the final game for the victory.
The Gators next venture out on their first road trip of the season, playing at No. 4 North Carolina on Saturday at 11 a.m., before facing No. 6 Duke on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Tuesday’s win against South Florida (1-2) extended Florida’s overall home winning streak to 87, in addition to being the Gator’s 97th consecutive regular-season home victory.
Women’s College Tennis
No. 25 South Florida at No. 2 Florida
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Final Score: Florida 5, South Florida 2
1. (1) Sofie Oyen/Allie Will, UF d. (25) Loreto Alonso/Janette Bejlkova, USF, 8-3
2. Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather, UF d. (45) Irene Rehberger/Ecaterina Vasenina, USF, 8-3
3. Alex Cercone/Olivia Janowicz, UF d. Alessandra Bonte/Kate Parker, US, 8-2*
1. Lauren Embree, UF d. (24) Irene Rehberger, USF, 6-0, 6-3
2. Ecaterina Vasenina, USF d. (96) Sofie Oyen, UF, 6-2, 7-6 (2)
3. (30) Joanna Mather, UF d. Loreto Alonso, USF, 7-5, 6-4
4. Janette Bejlkova, USF d. (22) Olivia Janowicz, UF, 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (12-10)
5. (28) Alex Cercone, UF d. Alessandra Bonte, USF, 6-1, 6-3
6. Caroline Hitimana, UF d. Kate Parker, USF, 6-3, 6-1*
Order of Finish: Doubles 2, 3*, 1; Singles 1, 5, 6*, 4, 3, 2
*indicates clinching doubles point/dual match win