OXFORD, Miss. – The No. 4 seed Ole Miss women’s tennis team reached the semifinals of the SEC Championship Friday with a 4-0 win over the fifth seed, Vanderbilt, in front of a large crowd at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. The Rebels will face the No. 1 seed, Florida, in the semifinals Saturday at 2 p.m.
This marks the Rebels’ third semifinal appearance in the SEC Tournament in four years. Florida advanced to its 25th semifinal overall with a 4-0 win against eighth-seeded Tennessee.
The other semifinal on Saturday, will feature the No. 2 seed, Alabama, versus the No. 3 seed, Georgia at 10 a.m.
“This is really exciting. I’m so happy for the girls. It was a great crowd out here and a great atmosphere. Playing in front of a crowd like this and hosting this tournament I think has really helped our kids,” head coach Mark Beyers said. “We’re looking forward to playing Florida. Hopefully we can play even better tomorrow and try and get to the finals.”
The Rebels jumped on the Commodores early by taking the doubles point and never really let Vanderbilt into the match. The freshman duo of Julia Jones and Iris Verboven won 8-1 at No. 3 doubles and then Gabby Rangel and Erin Stephens clinched the point at No. 2. They trailed 0-3 early in the match, but then won eight of the next nine games to take it 8-4.
“At No. 3 doubles we had a quick 8-1 victory. I’m excited because at No. 2 doubles we got beat a couple of weeks ago 8-6, and were able to turn it around and win 8-4 (today),” Beyers said.
In singles, Ole Miss won five of six first sets. First off the court, sophomore Vivian Vlaar downed Commodore Megan Gornet 6-0, 6-2 at No. 6 to make it 2-0. Moments later senior Abby Guthrie finished off Nelly Radeva 6-3, 6-1 on court five and then Stephens closed it out, winning 6-4, 6-0 against Marie Casares on court three.
“In singles, we win five first sets and people probably think that’s an easy victory, but I never felt that way,” Beyers said. “I was proud of the girls for closing out some of those first sets, and also closing out the second sets. Erin (Stephens) last time was up big against their girl and their girl came back. Erin was able to just dominate the second set. We did a good job of taking care of business on (courts) five and six, so it was just a great team effort.”
In the regular season meeting, the Rebels lost to Florida 6-1 in Gainesville. Guthrie was the lone winner in that match.
Earlier in the day, Georgia took out sixth-seeded South Carolina 4-0 behind the doubles point and straight set wins at three, five and six. In the second quarterfinal match, Alabama downed 10th-seeded Arkansas 4-0. The Crimson Tide took the doubles point and then picked up straight set wins on courts two, five and six to secure their spot in the semifinals.
Live scoring of both semifinal matches is available at www.OleMissSports.com as well as a live blog. Follow the tournament on twitter at @OleMissWTennis. The hashtag is #SECWT12.
#4 Ole Miss 4
#5 Vanderbilt 0
1. Boxx/Guthrie (OM) vs. Wu/Mira (VU) 5-5, sus.
2. Rangel/Stephens (OM) def. Antall/Casares (VU) 8-4
3. Verboven/Jones (OM) def. Gornet/Radeva (VU) 8-1
Order of Finish: 3, 2
1. Kristi Boxx (OM) vs. Jackie Wu (VU) 6-4, 1-1, sus.
2. Caroline Rohde-Moe (OM) vs. Lauren Mira (VU) 0-6, 1-4, sus.
3. Erin Stephens (OM) def. Marie Casares (VU) 6-4, 6-0
4. Julia Jones (OM) vs. Ashleigh Antal (VU) 6-1, 3-6, 0-1, sus.
5. Abby Guthrie (OM) def. Nelly Radeva (VU) 6-3, 6-0
6. Vivian Vlaar (OM) def. Megan Gornet (VU) 6-0, 6-2
Order of Finish: 6, 5, 3