Photo Gallery: Women’s tennis in Sweet 16

A two-hour rain delay was the only the thing that could slow down the Florida women’s tennis team as the Gators defeated Michigan 4-0 to advance to the the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens. Ga., on Thursday.

Gator Country photographer Jack Lewis filed 16 pictures from the event in this photo gallery. Be sure to click on the link below the story to view the gallery.

The second-seeded Gators (24-1) won their 19th consecutive match and recorded the 899th victory in program history to reach the quarterfinals for the 26th time in the 31-year history of the event.

Florida needed a comeback win from the doubles pair of Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) to earn the doubles point and that Gators carried that momentum onto the singles courts where they won the first set on all six courts, with Embree, Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) and Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) able to finish quickly and secure the team victory shortly before midnight.

“The first hour and a half was tough,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “Doubles was very close. I was very happy to see our doubles teams keep their heads and communicate very well. I thought the singles matches were outstanding. On courts 4, 5 and 6 we were about as good as we played all year and that comes out at a great time. We’re moving well, we’re playing smart, we can handle ups and downs and we handle mistakes well.”

Janowicz was the first to complete her singles match, taking the 6-1, 6-3 victory against Michelle Sulahian and give UF a 2-0 lead. The Gator sophomore took a 3-1 lead, up two breaks in the second set and rode that to her eighth consecutive win and the 55th victory of her career.

Moments later, Embree polished off Brooke Bolender, 6-4, 6-1 and gave Florida a 3-0 lead, as the Gator All-American clocked in her 16th straight singles victory. Embree trailed 3-0 to start the match before she ripped off four consecutive games. The next two games were breaks, but Embree served out for the first set and won the first three games of the second. Boldender took Embree’s serve, but the Embree answered by winning the final three games, including her next serve at love to collect the victory.

Oyen provided the clinching match win when she defeated Sarah Lee, 6-1, 6-3, and tallied the 50th singles win of her career. The Gator sophomore improved to a team-best 21-1, finishing her match just as Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) was two points from her match on court five, which was halted as soon as Oyen collected her victory on court four. Oyen has won her singles match in each of UF’s first three rounds of the NCAA Championships, the only Gator able to do so.

The Gators won an important and exciting doubles point, as the tandem of Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather rallied for a 9-7 victory to clinch the 1-0 team lead after Michigan (21-8) took the 8-5 decision on court one, before Alexandra Cercone and Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) earned the 8-2 win on court three.

Embree and Mather, who won their 23rd consecutive match – the third-longest run in program history, found themselves down a break and 7-5 after missing out on all three break points in the previous game. The veteran Gator pair quickly regrouped and capitalized on its third break point in the 13th game and Mather held for 7-all. Embree then ripped a forehand cross court winner at break point in the next game and served out for the victory against Mimi Nguyen and Michelle Sulahian. The Gator pair improved to 52-7 overall, including a 48-1 record in dual match action, a win total that ranks second all-time in UF history in team competition. Individually, the win marked Mather’s 109th of her career, tying her with Dawn Buth (1995-98) for seventh in Gator history. Embree improved to a stellar 18-0 in doubles-point clinching matches in her career.

“If we have good communication, they have a knack for finding ways to get into matches,” Thornqvist said of Embree and Mather. “We started to own the net.”

Cercone and Hitimana found themselves down 2-0 early against Kristy Dodge and Sarah Lee, before Hitimana got things rolling for the Gators, who ripped off the next eight games to win their seventh straight match. The win was Hitimana’s 55th doubles victory of her career.

Courtesy UF Communications

To view the photo gallery by Jack Lewis, click here.