The top-seeded Florida womens tennis team defeated South Carolina for the second time in six days and advanced to the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament held at Barksdale
Stadium on the University of Tennessee campus.
The Gators (23-1) won the doubles point and received victories on the singles courts from sophomore Lauren Embree, junior Joanna Mather and freshman Olivia Janowicz en route to the 4-0 win on Friday afternoon.
Florida, which has advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the 24th time in the 24-year history of the event, will play fifth-seeded and 19th-ranked Vanderbilt on Saturday at 10 a.m. The Commodores (15-7) staged a remarkable comeback against fourth-seeded Alabama, as Alex Leatu rallied from a 7-6 (6), 3-1 deficit against Mary Anne Macfarlane in the final match on court to win 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-0 and secure the 4-3 team victory.
Friday’s match was delay an hour because of rain, but once Florida took the court, its number two doubles of team Embree and Sofie Oyen raced out to a big lead and eventually the 8-0 shutout against Dijana Stojic and Adriana Pereira in 29 minutes.
The Gators also held a 4-1 lead on the other two courts, but the Gamecocks (15-8) fought back and closed the gap to one break at the number one position where UF’s ninth-ranked tandem of Alex Cercone and Allie Will were battling 39th-ranked Anya Morgina and Dominika Kanakova.
Receiving with a 7-5 advantage, the Gators held five match-points but couldn’t capitalize in that game and left room for UF’s number three team of Mather and Janowicz to provide the clinching doubles-point win.
After Janowicz held for a 7-4 lead, the Gators earned one match-point in the next game, but they couldn’t polish off the win. That’s when Cercone held serve and sealed the 8-6 win and gave Florida a 1-0 team lead.
“I thought we played very, very well in doubles,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvsit said. “For the most part we were very solid in singles. The courts are amazingly slow, which isn’t a detriment for the Gators, but we do have to adjust our play in singles a little for tomorrow. Overall I think we’re doing really well. We’re physical and if we can adjust our singles play a little tomorrow I think it will be beneficial.
“We were as solid at two as we have been all season,” Thornqvist continued. “At [the number position] one we’re starting to get much better at the net. Last week we worked a lot on our quick hands, our volleys. I though Allie was sharper with her hands today. With these courts if you can’t hit a clean volley you get passed because they are so slow.”
The Gators, who won their 13th consecutive dual match, then turned their attention to the singles court, where they won the first set on all six courts.
Embree was the first off with her methodical 6-2, 6-1 victory against Anya Morgina, as the Gator sophomore posted her 19th consecutive singles victory – improving to 19-0 this year – and gave UF a 2-0 lead. Morgina held to begin the match, but Embree won the next four games for a 4-1 lead. Morgina halted Embree’s run with a break, but Embree broke right back and served out for the set. She then broke again and held for a 2-0 lead in the second. Morgina broke up the bagel by holding in the third game, but wouldn’t get another in the one hour and 29 minute decision.
Mather followed eight minutes later with a 6-4, 6-2 victory versus Katerina Popova and UF held a 3-0 advantage. After the first two games held true, the next four were breaks before both competitors held in their next respective trips to the baseline. Mather was able to earn another break in the ninth game and served out for the set. The second frame began in almost identical fashion, only Mather held in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead, winning the final three games for the victory.
Cercone actually held a couple match-points during the second set against Adriana Pereira, who fought back and forced a tiebreak, where Cercone jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
In the meantime, Janowicz won the first set against Miljana Jocic and held a few match-points on Jocic’s serve in the second, forcing the Gator rookie to close out the win herself, which she did, 6-1, 6-3 and seal Florida’s victory while posting her 15th consecutive singles win.
Cercone’s second-set tiebreak was a 4-3 when play was abandoned.
Will won a hard-fought first set against Dijana Stojic, breaking in the ninth game and holding for the frame, 6-4. The second was on-serve, with Will serving down 4-3 when play was halted.
Oyen won the first set 6-2, but dropped the second 6-2, before regrouping to take a 2-0 lead at the number four position when her match was stopped.
Florida has a quick turnaround in facing Vanderbilt in the first semifinal match, but the Commodores didn’t earn a first round bye and will be playing their third match in as many days.
The Gators defeated Vanderbilt, 7-0, on April 3 in Nashville and extended their lead in the series to 41-2 all-time. Like a lot of matches, the final score of the regular-season affair didn’t indicate how tight each match was. The Gators won a thrilling doubles point, as the team of Embree and Mather clinched with a 9-7 victory after the other two matches had split. Two of the singles matches were three-setters and three sets were either 7-5 or tiebreaks.
“It’s going to be a great match,” Thornqvist said. “We had a good match at their place earlier last month. Every time we play Vanderbilt they always bring their ‘A’ game so we have to be ready. I hope we get to play outside [because of the weather].”
Prior to Friday’s match, Florida was presented with the SEC Regular-Season Championship trophy, the team’s 25th league title in the 32 years the conference has sponsored the sport.
Team Results – SEC Tournament Quarterfinals
#5 Vanderbilt d. #4 Alabama, 4-3
#1 Florida d. #9 South Carolina, 4-0
#3 Georgia d. #6 Arkansas, 4-0
#2 Tennessee vs. #10 Kentucky – 7 PM
SEC Tournament Quarterfinals
No. 36 South Carolina vs. No. 2 Florida
Barksdale Tennis Stadium * Knoxville, Tenn.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Final Score: Florida 4, South Carolina 0
1. #21 Lauren Embree, UF d. #38 Anya Morgina, USC, 6-2, 6-1
2. #6 Allie Will, UF led #96 Dijana Stojic, USC, 6-4, 3-4 DNF
3. #41 Joanna Mather, UF d. #120 Katerina Popova, USC, 6-4, 6-2
4. #85 Sofie Oyen, UF led Dominika Kanakova, USC, 6-2, 2-6, 2-0 DNF
5. #51 Alex Cercone, UF led Adriana Pereira, USC, 6-0, 6-6 (4-3) DNF
6. #50 Olivia Janowicz, UF d. Miljana Jocic, USC, 6-1, 6-3*
Order of Finish: 1, 3, 6*
1. #9 Alex Cercone/Allie Will, UF d. #39 Anya Morgina/Dominika Kanakova, USC, 8-6*
2. #50 Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, UF d. Dijana Stojic/Adriana Pereira, USC, 8-0
3. Olivia Janowicz/Joanna Mather, UF led Miljana Jocic/Katerina Popova, USC, 7-4 DNF
Order of Finish: 2, 1*
Updated Records: Florida 23-1, South Carolina 15-8
* clinching doubles-point/dual-match victory