Women’s tennis claims 17th SEC Tournament title

The top-seeded Florida Gators women’s tennis team put on a dominant performance against second-seeded Tennessee, winning 4-0 and securing the team’s 17th SEC Tournament title on Sunday.

With Florida’s men’s team also winning the SEC Tournament championship on Sunday, it marked the third time ever that both teams captured the league tournament title in the same season.

“We especially like winning the tournament title because it’s a three-day event,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “We take pride in our fitness and our durability and grit. Winning a three-day event in the heat against a field as tough as the SEC means a lot. To win an event like this you have to be fit, tough and gritty and we really showed that this weekend.”

For the Gators, the 2011 championship was the sixth time they faced the host team in the SEC Tournament final. They’ve won five of them.

The last time Florida battled the host school on its home court in the SEC final was in 2004, when the Gators defeated Vanderbilt, 4-0, at the Brownlee O. Currey Tennis Center in Nashville.

“It’s extra tough to beat a team for a championship on its home court,” said Thornqvist, who has guided the Gators to seven SEC Tournament titles in his 10 years at UF. “Tennessee played much better today than they did two weeks again in Gainesville. We talked about that entering

this match, that we had to expect a much better effort from the Volunteers and we got their best shot. I was proud to see our performance.”

Sophomore Allie Will was named the SEC Tournament Most Valuable Performer after she won all three of her doubles matches and two singles matches, including both in Sunday’s championship.

Freshman Olivia Janowicz joined Will on the All-Tournament Team, after the Gator rookie was the only player who won all three of her singles match, as well as a pair on the doubles court.

Florida won the doubles point and improved to 24-0 this year when capturing the initial team point of the dual match.

Will provided the second team point in the title contest when she defeated Rosalia Alda, 6-3, 6-0, on court two in one hour and 17 minutes and tallied her 11th consecutive singles win. She improved to 20-1 in dual matches this season, as well as 46-2 in her dual match singles career.

Janowicz followed with her 17th consecutive singles victory as she took down Millie Nichols, 6-4, 6-0, at the number six position and gave Florida a 3-0 lead. The Gator rookie won her 32nd singles match this year, tied for the most on the team with fellow freshman and roommate Alex Cercone, who provided the championship-clinching victory with her 6-3, 6-3 decision against Maria Sorbello on court five. The win was Cercone’s ninth straight.

The Gators, who won their 15th consecutive dual match, had claimed the first set on the other three singles courts when play was halted.

Lauren Embree led Natalie Pluskota, 6-1, 4-6, 1-0, Joanna Mather led Brynn Boren, 6-2, 5-4, and Sofie Oyen led Kata Szekely, 7-6 (10-8), 0-1.

In the clinching match, Cercone was up a break serving at 4-2, when Sorbello broke serve and was aiming to even up the third frame. Cercone would have none of that, however, as she broke right back and served out for the victory.

In Will’s first set, the Gator sophomore took a 3-1 lead against Alda, who held and broke, but couldn’t stave off another break and Will took a 4-3 lead. Will held for 5-3 and broke again to take the first set and cruised in a hard-fought second set to earn the straight-set win.

Janowicz lost her serve to begin her match, but broke right back, eventually winning the frame and zipping past Nichols with a bagel in the second.

The 2011 championship was rematch of last year’s title bout that the Gators claimed 4-1 against the Lady Vols (17-4), who were making the first-ever appearance in the final.

“That Tennessee team is really well coached and they get the most out of their players,” Thornqvist said. “Every time we play them it’s a battle. We knew it was going to tough. Doubles was decided by a point here and there. I was proud of our players for making a couple points at the end and that’s the sign of a champion. You have to want the ball on your racket at the end and I really felt we did that at [positions] one and three. We didn’t play great at two doubles, but we were within two points of tying it up at 7-all.

“In singles we got off to a really strong start and it looked like we were going to cruise in singles but here comes this Tennessee team,” Thornqvist said. “I look over 10 minutes before we finish and I’m seeing that they could have evened up a few of the courts. I can’t say enough about our players. They fought and regained the momentum and were able to close it out.”

The Gators won the doubles point thanks to victories by Alex Cercone and Allie Will on court one and by Joanna Mather and Olivia Janowicz on court three, with both playing their respective match-points at the same time and finishing within moments of each other.

Ninth-ranked Cercone and Will closed out their 8-5 win against 16th-ranked Natalie Pluskota and Brynn Boren to improve to 11-0 as a tandem, just before Mather and Janowicz earned an 8-5 win against Millie Nichols and Jennifer Meredith in just under an hour and secured the doubles point and the 1-0 team lead for Florida.

On court one, the Gators opened with a 3-0 lead, up a break. UT took Cercone’s serve, but Florida broke Boren for a second time and Will held for 5-2. The Gators won the next two games and stretched their lead to 7-2. Boren finally held and the Vols broke Will and Pluskota held, as the home fans started to come alive. Cercone managed to quell the UT faithful by serving out for the victory.

At the number three position, Florida took a 3-1 lead, up a break, before Janowicz lost her serve. The Gators bounced right back with a break, but couldn’t hold the next time up, as the Lady Vols evened the match at 4-all. Janowicz lost her serve again, but the Gators broke back and Mather held for 6-5 and get the match on-serve. Florida managed another break in the 12th game and Janowicz served out for the victory.

Next up for both teams is the announcement of the NCAA Championship selections, which will be webcast on NCAA.com on Tuesday, May 3 beginning at 5 p.m. ET.

The names of the athletes selected to the 64-player singles draw and the 32-team doubles draw will be revealed on Wed., May 4, with the list available on the NCAA website no later than 6 p.m. ET.

SEC Tournament Championship

No. 2 Florida at No. 14 Tennessee

Barksdale Tennis Stadium * Knoxville, Tenn.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Final Score: Florida 4, Tennessee 0


1. #9 Alex Cercone/Allie Will, UF d. #16 Natalie Pluskota/Brynn Boren, UT, 8-5

2. Rosalia Alda/Maria Sorbello, UT led #50 Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, UF, 7-6 DNF

3. Olivia Janowicz/Joanna Mather, UF d. Millie Nichols/Jennifer Meredith, UT, 8-5*

Order of Finish: 1, 2*


1. #21 Lauren Embree, UF led #32 Natalie Pluskota, UT, 6-1, 4-6, 1-0 DNF

2. #6 Allie Will, UF d. #97 Rosalia Alda, UT, 6-3, 6-0

3. Joanna Mather led Brynn Boren, 6-2, 5-4

4. #85 Sofie Oyen, UF led Kata Szekely, UT, 7-6 (10-8), 0-1 DNF

5. #51 Alex Cercone, UF d. Maria Sorbello, UT, 6-3, 6-3*

6. #50 Olivia Janowicz, UF d. Millie Nichols, UT, 6-4, 6-0

Order of Finish: 2, 6, 5*

Updated Records: Florida 25-1, Tennessee 17-4

* clinching doubles-point/dual-match victory