UF women’s tennis vies for SEC title

The University of Florida women’s tennis team already has secured at least a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship and can clinch the title outright with a victory against South Carolina on Saturday at Carolina Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C.

The second-ranked Gators carry a 17-1 overall record, as well as an 11-0 mark in SEC action, into Saturday’s contest against the 27th-ranked Gamecocks (14-6, 5-5 SEC) in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Alabama sits second in the SEC standings with a 9-1 league record and closes its regular season at Auburn on Saturday.

The Gators have won the SEC regular-season title 26 times in the 33 years the league has sponsored women’s tennis. Florida has a chance to march through the regular-season with an undefeated league record (11-0) for the third consecutive season and the 21st time in program history.

Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, the Gators already have secured the top seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament, which will be played April 19-22 in Oxford, Miss. Florida has been either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament 22 times in the 24-year history of the event.

Florida’s 2012 SEC regular-season championship is the program’s 26th of a possible 33 SEC titles, as well as its third consecutive conference crown. The Gators have won more SEC women’s tennis crowns than any other women’s team at any school in any sport.

Six Gators are ranked in the ITA National Singles Rankings, with Allie Will at No. 1, Lauren Embree at No. 10, Joanna Mather at No. 21, Sofie Oyen at No. 48, Alexandra Cercone at No. 73 and Caroline Hitimana at No. 123. Three doubles teams also were listed among the top-50 in the recent rankings, with Oyen and Will at No. 1, Embree and Mather at No. 16 and Cercone and Olivia Janowicz at No. 46.

Florida has won 12 consecutive dual matches entering the match against South Carolina, as well as its last 35 regular-season matches versus SEC teams.

Individually, Hitimana has won a team-best 15 straight singles matches, with Embree and Mather both having won their last 11, respectively. On the doubles court, the pair of Embree and Mather sport a 15-match win streak, while Oyen and Will have won 14 in a row.

As a team, South Carolina is riding a three-match win streak into the battle against the Gators. Anya Morgina is ranked a team-high No. 40 in singles, while junior Jaklin Alawi is No. 85 and Dijana Stojic is No. 88. Alawi and Morgina pair at the nation’s No. 52-ranked doubles tandem, while Alwai teams with Stojic at No. 67.

Florida, which has won 34 straight against South Carolina since a 5-4 setback on March 29, 1981, in Columbia, owns a 38-2 all-time record in the series versus the Gamecocks.

Courtesy UF Communications