Gators strong in singles openers

Less than 24 hours after winning the NCAA Team Championship, four members of the Florida women’s tennis team were back on the courts and each won their respective opening-round matches at the 2012 NCAA Singles Championships that began Wednesday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.

Junior Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.), senior Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.), sophomore Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) and junior Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) all won in straight sets to advance to the NCAA round of 32 that begins Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

Embree defeated Tulsa’s Anastasia Erofeeva, 6-0, 6-3, while Mather downed Duke’s Hanna Mar, 7-5, 6-4, Oyen topped South Florida’s Ecaterina Vasenina, 6-4, 6-2, and Will posted a 7-6 (5), 6-3 decision against Notre Dame’s Shannon Mathews.

Embree advanced to play Maryland’s Cristina Stancu, Mather will face Stanford’s third-seeded Nicole Gibbs, Oyen will battle Southern California’s Sabrina Santamaria and Will takes on Southern California’s Danielle Lao.

Embree ripped through the first set before Erofeeva held serve to open the second set, as there were no breaks through the first four games until the Gator All-American struck in the fifth game and held for a 4-2 lead. She broke again, before Erofeeva broke back to keep the match alive, but Embree ended it by breaking one final time to earn her 19th consecutive singles win, as well as the 90th victory of her career.

“You just try to get through the first match because we’re still probably high on momentum and energy from winning the team title so I was just ready to play and start all over,” Embree shared. “I felt ok. I thought I was moving pretty well and I just tried to get on and off the court as quick as possible. I was happy with it.”

Oyen traded serves to begin her match against Vasenina, as eight breaks played out and Oyen was to hold in the third game and that was the difference in the first set. The first four games of the second also were breaks and the Gator sophomore ended that trend by holding the fifth en route to winning the final five games to earn her 30th victory of the season.

“I actually felt pretty good. I stayed really calm and focused. I played smart and tried to play aggressively and did good today,” Oyen said. “We won yesterday and I was a little tired today and was nervous out there at the start, but then once the first few games finished it was all good.”

Mather was facing a familiar opponent in Mar, whom she rallied to defeat 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 on Monday in the NCAA Team Semifinals. The Gator senior held serve to begin Wednesday’s match, but Mar ripped off four straight to take a 4-2 lead and two breaks. Mather dug deep and broke Mar, but lost her serve in the next game, as Mar went to the baseline with a 5-3 lead ready to close out the frame. Mather, however, rallied and four consecutive games to win the first set. Mar came right back and broke to begin the second, taking a 2-0 lead. Mather won the next three games and got the frame back on-serve, as Mar held for 3-all and then broke for a 4-3 lead. Mather again broke Mar and held to make it 5-4 and then earned one final break to win her 19th consecutive singles match, as well as the 105th of her career.

“Today was a tough match. I don’t think I played my best tennis. I played the same player I did a couple days ago in the team semifinals,” Mather said. “She’s really tricky and it was hard for me to get my timing. It was also tough to come off the high of the team win. (Coach) Roland (Thornqvist) told us to be ready to grind today because it’s the hardest day, but once you get through it, it gets easier from here on out. I’m glad I made it though the match today and ready for the rest of the tournament.”

Will also found herself in a tough opening-round match, as neither competitor was able to distance themselves in the first set, which entered a tiebreaker that was equally as close, but Will broke through at the right time for the 7-6 (5) opening set win. She then jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second before Mathews battled back and closed to within 4-3. But Will broke in a very long and important eighth game, before serving out for the 106th win of her career.

“I don’t think I was worried about a letdown (after winning the team title). It’s the start of a new tournament and I put a lot of pressure on myself and didn’t handle it very well today and that’s why I struggled mentally,” Will said. “The girl I played today is a really good player and battled really hard. She made me earn every point and sometimes I didn’t want to fight as hard as I should and that’s why made it harder on myself.”

All four also will compete in the 32-team NCAA Doubles Championships that begins Thursday. Oyen and Will drew Baylor’s Ema Burgic and Nina Secerbegovic in the first round, while Embree and Mather will play Northwestern’s Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton.

NCAA Women’s Singles Championships – Round of 64

Dan Magill Tennis Complex * Athens, Ga.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Singles First Round (64)

#1 Allie Will (1), FLORIDA def. #34 Shannon Mathews, NOTRE DAME, 7-6(5), 6-3

#19 Danielle Lao, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA def. #46 Keri Wong, CLEMSON, 6-3, 6-1

#57 Kata Szekely, TENNESSEE def. #12 Emina Bektas (9-16), MICHIGAN, 6-4, 7-5

#37 Abigail Tere-Apisah, GEORGIA STATE def. #60 Katie Le, SANTA CLARA, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-0

#6 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (7), TEXAS A&M def. #52 Alexa Guarachi, ALABAMA, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3)

#31 Joelle Kissell, NORTH CAROLINA STATE def. #48 Tayler Davis, CALIFORNIA, 7-5, 6-1

#16 Diana Nakic (9-16), BAYLOR def. #27 Gabriela Mejia, MIAMI, 6-2, 6-2

#29 Petra Niedermayerova, KANSAS STATE def. #81 Lutfiana Budiharto, WICHITA STATE, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

#3 Nicole Gibbs (3), STANFORD def. #22 Emily Fraser, VIRGINIA, 6-0, 6-2

#21 Joanna Mather, FLORIDA def. #59 Hanna Mar, DUKE, 7-5, 6-4

#50 Lacey Smyth, ARIZONA def. #10 Kristi Boxx (9-16), MISSISSIPPI, 6-4, 7-6(3)

#35 Natalie Pluskota, TENNESSEE def. #54 Anastasia Putilina, UTAH, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5

#8 Jana Juricova (6), CALIFORNIA def. #20 Kate Turvy, NORTHWESTERN, 6-3, 6-1

#56 Sona Novakova, BAYLOR def. #38 Zoe De Bruycker, NORTH CAROLINA, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5

#45 Anya Morgina, SOUTH CAROLINA def. #15 Jacqueline Cako (9-16), ARIZONA STATE, 6-3, 6-3

#40 Aeriel Ellis, TEXAS def. #58 Maho Kowase, GEORGIA, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-1

#23 Nina Secerbegovic, BAYLOR def. #70 Lauren McHale, NORTH CAROLINA, 6-3, 6-2

#32 Brynn Boren, TENNESSEE def. #11 Jillian O’Neill (9-16), GEORGIA TECH, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4

#61 Sofie Oyen, FLORIDA def. #44 Ecaterina Vasenina, SOUTH FLORIDA, 6-4, 6-2

#26 Sabrina Santamaria, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA def. #7 Chelsey Gullickson (8), GEORGIA, 6-3, 6-2

#24 Mary Anne Macfarlane, ALABAMA def. #102 Anais Dallara, LONG BEACH STATE, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3

#13 Zsofi Susanyi (9-16), CALIFORNIA def. #47 Mary Weatherholt, NEBRASKA, 6-4, 7-5

#36 Natalie Beazant, RICE def. #25 Stacey Tan, STANFORD, 7-5, 6-2

#4 Robin Anderson (4), UCLA def. #33 Courtney Collins, MEMPHIS, 6-3, 6-0

#18 Anna Bartenstein, MIAMI def. #51 Liudmila Vasilieva, WASHINGTON STATE, 6-3, 6-1

#14 Zoe Scandalis (9-16), SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA def. #65 Lucia Batta, UNLV, 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-2

#17 Denise Dy, Washington def. #41 Marianne Jodoin, FRESNO STATE, 6-4, 7-6(3)

#5 Mallory Burdette (5), Stanford def. #120 Maria Craciun, South Carolina State, 6-1, 6-1

#28 Cristina Stancu, Maryland def. #53 Nazari Urbina, Texas A&M, 7-6(3), 6-0

#9 Lauren Embree (9-16), Florida def. #49 Anastasia Erofeeva, Tulsa, 6-0, 6-3

#43 Lindsey Hardenbergh, Virginia def. #30 Anett Schutting, California, 6-1, 6-4

#2 Beatrice Capra (2), Duke def. #42 Jackie Wu, Vanderbilt, 6-2, 6-2

Courtesy UF Communications