UF women’s tennis eyes Duke in semis

Second-seeded Florida plays third-seeded Duke in the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships on Monday at 1 p.m. at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex’s McWhorter Courts on the campus of the University of Georgia

The match is scheduled to be broadcast over the internet at http://www.ncaa.com, with live scoring provided at http://www.georgiadogs.com.

The Gators, winners of 20 consecutive matches, defeated South Carolina State, 4-0, Washington State, 6-0, Michigan, 4-0, and Miami, 4-0, to advance to the NCAA Semifinals where they will play a Blue Devils squad that upended host Georgia, 4-2, in their quarterfinal match for their 18th consecutive win which ties the second-longest streak in program history with the 2009 team which won the program’s first national championship.

The Gators lead the all-time series against Duke, 34-4, including this year’s 5-0 regular-season meeting on March 14 and a 5-0 record in NCAA Championships action. The teams met twice last season, with Florida earning a 4-2 win in Durham on Feb. 13, before taking the 4-1 decision on Feb. 20 in the semifinals of the National Team Indoor Championships.

The Blue Devils handed the Gators a rare home loss back on March 28, 2001, when then-second-ranked Duke knocked off then-fifth-ranked Florida, 4-1. Duke’s last win against Florida was a 4-3 thriller on Feb. 15, 2008 in Durham.

In three of the five meetings in NCAA Championship action, Florida went on to win the NCAA title (2003, 1998 and 1992). The last meeting was a 4-1 decision in the 2003 semifinals held in Gainesville, where Florida went on to win its fourth of five national championships.

The two programs also met in the 1998 semifinals (5-2 UF) and in the 1998 final (5-1 UF, which won its third title), as well as in 1992 (5-1 semifinals win en route to team’s first NCAA title) and in the 1991 quarterfinals (5-1).

The Gators are 12-9 all-time in the NCAA semifinals and have advanced to the finals both of the last two years.

On Saturday, Florida advanced to the semifinals after outlasting Miami on the doubles court and then carrying that momentum onto the singles courts where the Gators earned a 4-0 victory and their third consecutive trip to the final four. After the teams split the doubles results on courts one and two, Alexandra Cercone and Caroline Hitimana clinched the doubles point with an 8-6 victory that lasted one hour and 46 minutes, highlighted by the 13th game, which proved to be a pivotal one for the Gators, who took turned away five break points and capitalized on their second game-point in the 18-point game for a 7-6 lead.

UF fed off the momentum and needed just one hour and 39 minutes to get singles wins from Cercone, Olivia Janowicz and Joanna Mather to advance to the NCAA Semifinals for the 22nd time in the last 26 years and produce the 900th win in program history.

“It was nice to see our three (team) doubles stay composed and make the right decisions at the end of doubles,” said UF head coach Roland Thornqvist, who enters Monday’s match with a 16-year coaching mark of 349-81 and a 274-31 ledger in 11 seasons at UF. “It means a lot to the rest of us, frankly, and gives us a lot of confidence going into Monday’s match against Duke. In singles we were on fire from the start. Miami felt the heat a little bit from us taking the doubles point. Overall, I was very pleased.”

Duke (29-2) has lost the doubles point three times in its last five matches, but rallied to win each dual match on the singles court.

“Duke is playing its best tennis of the year right now so we certainly know we’re going to have our hands full,” Thornqvist said. “We know we will have to play very, very well from start to finish.”

This is the seventh time since 1987 that the Gators are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Championships. Florida is 29-3 when playing as the No. 2 seed, winning NCAA titles in 1998, 2003 and 2011, while finishing as runner-up 1990.

Courtesy UF Communications