Bulldog Duo Advances To NCAA Quarterfinals; Gullickson Now An 8-Time All-American
ATHENS, Ga. - With All-America honors on the line, Georgia seniors Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist responded with a three-set victory over Michigan’s Emina Bektas and Brooke Bolender to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships.
Gullickson became the first eight-time All-American in Georgia tennis history, eclipsing the mark of seven by Marissa Catlin (1997-2000) and John Isner (2004-07). She became the first UGA student-athlete to earn All-America accolades all four years in their sport since men’s golfers Russell Henley and Harris English who completed their careers in 2011. In tennis, All-America honors can be achieved by reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAAs, finishing in the top 10 of the final ITA rankings or being one of the top seeds at the NCAAs.
Down a set and trailing 6-5, the Gullickson/Gilchrist tandem roared to life, winning 11 straight points. Gilchrist served to extend the match, and then the duo blitzed the Wolverines in the tiebreaker 7-0. The Bulldog pair won 24 of the next 30 points to take the final set, posting a 4-6,7-6(0),6-1 decision.
“Nadja and Chelsey are an experienced team; they made it to the semifinals the last time they played in the NCAA Tournament here, and this was another big win for them,” said Georgia coach Jeff Wallace. “It was an impressive victory after they fell behind and a tremendous finish. We’re proud of them for making All-American, the eighth time for Chelsey.”
The Michigan duo, ranked 11th nationally, picked up the first break in the match in the sixth game of the first set to take a 4-2 lead. Georgia got the break right back, and Gullickson held serve to even the set at 4-all. With Bektas serving, Michigan fought off two break points and eventually held to take a 5-4 edge. Then, they seized the first break point/set point opportunity on the Bulldog duo and claimed the first set 6-4.
Early in the second set, Georgia picked up a break on Bolender’s serve for a 2-1 advantage. Each team held until the Wolverines broke through on Gilchrist’s serve to even the set at 4-all, and it would remain all square until the tiebreaker where Georgia would not be denied.
In the final set, Gilchrist held and the Michigan duo saved three break point opportunities before Gullickson smashed a volley winner to put Georgia in front 2-0 and then held serve for a 3-0 lead. The Georgia tandem won four straight points on Bolender’s serve for another break and a strong service game from Gilchrist made it 5-0. Betkas finally held in the sixth game to briefly halt Georgia’s march to victory. Then, Gullickson and Gilchrist came through on their first match point to move in to the quarterfinals.
“We played the Michigan team in the fall and at the indoors, so we had an idea of how they play,” said Gullickson. “We knew we had to serve well, and our goal was try and break Emina (Bektas) at least once. We were able to do that in the second set and then did it from the start in the third. It was great to play here again in front of our fans. We stepped up in the big tournament a couple of years ago here and made it to the semifinals. To be an eight-time All-American, I’m excited about it and it’s something I can be proud of.”
For Gilchrist, it was her third All-America honor in doubles with Gullickson. The 27th-ranked duo improves to 22-7 this season and 9-3 against ranked opponents. In their career, they are 62-20. Up next, they face the California pair of Jana Juricova and Szofi Susanyi on Saturday, and the time has not been set.
Tide’s Botha and Doverspike out of NCAA Doubles Championship
ATHENS, Ga. – Alabama’s 28th-ranked duo of Jarryd Botha and Ricky Doverspike fell 6-3, 7-5, in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Doubles Championship to the No. 2 seed team of Steve Johnson and Roberto Quiroz on Friday. Botha and Doverspike end the season with a 13-7 overall record.
“We played what is clearly one of the best doubles teams in the nation along with the most dominant college player of the last few years in Steve Johnson,” said Alabama head coach Billy Pate. “We had our chances and just missed on a few opportunities, but great teams force those mistakes.”
The first set was on serve until Johnson and Quiroz broke for the 5-3 lead. The Trojan duo would hold serve in the next game to take the opening set and would pick up an early break in the second for the 2-1 edge. Botha and Doverspike broke back to get the set on serve until another late break for Johnson and Quiroz put the Southern Cal duo in front 6-5. They would, again, be in position to serve for the set and the match.
“We pressed just a bit and came up just short, however, I’m very proud of this doubles team and for the strides they made this year, particularly in the last few weeks,” added Pate. “We’ll sorely miss Ricky and his tremendous contributions to this team, however, this experience will be extremely beneficial for Jarryd as he approaches his senior year.”
Bulldogs Ilyushin, Cant Fall in NCAA Singles Round of 16
ATHENS, Ga. – Mississippi State’s remaining contingent in the NCAA Singles Championship was eliminated Friday as seniors Artem Ilyushin and Louis Cant fell in a pair of tough setbacks in the round of 16 to top 16 seeds.
In the opening match of singles action for the day, MSU’s 13th-ranked Ilyushin faced a tough round of 16 opponent in No. 3 Eric Quigley of Kentucky. Falling behind 5-2 in the first set, Ilyushin answered with three straight games and eventually sent the set to a tiebreaker. Down 5-3 in the breaker, Ilyushin battled to tie it at 5-all but his efforts fell short as Quigley took the next two points and the first set 7-6(5).
However, Ilyushin bounced right back as he charged out with a 3-0 lead in the second set but Quigley answered with three straight games of his own. The two would exchange the next two serves but Quigley earned the edge with a break to serve for the match at 5-4. Yet again, Ilyushin answered with a solid break back and hold to earn a 6-5 advantage once again. Quigley held and the two went to a tiebreaker for the second set as well. There, Quigley jumped to a quick 4-0 lead before Ilyushin rallied to 4-4 before Quigley took the last three points and the match 7-6(5), 7-6(4).
Ilyushin ended his Bulldog career with All-America and first-team, all-SEC honors his senior season. Named ITA Southern Region Senior of the Year, he won 129 total matches as a Bulldog.
In the second match of the day, 50th-ranked Cant faced No. 14 Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss. Down 4-3 in the first set, Cant won the final three games of the set to take it 6-4. In the second, Cant got up a break early on and held it to 5-4 where he served for the match. However, Scholtz broke him to 5-5, but Cant answered to 6-5 and served for the match once again. But again, Scholtz got it back and forced a tiebreaker which he took 7-3 to force a third set. In the third, Scholtz held service breaks twice, at 2-1 and 3-2, but Cant bounced back both times to even things. At 4-4 with Cant serving, Scholtz got another break and held to finally claim the excellent battle 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4.
Cant’s MSU career ended just as nicely. He earned All-American honors with his run to the round of 16 in Athens and was also a first-team, all-SEC selection. He won 153 matches as a Bulldog and now stands alone in 10th place at MSU for career singles wins (87) and is tied for 10th in doubles triumphs (66).
Spencer’s NCAA Run Ends In Round Of 16
ATHENS, Ga. - Senior Wil Spencer saw his run in the 2012 NCAA Singles Championships come to an end Friday afternoon, falling 6-1, 6-3 to the overall No. 2 seed Mitchell Frank of Virginia in the round of 16 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
Spencer was locked in a battle with the star freshman, but dropped the first set 6-1 before building two match points of Frank’s first two service games of the second set trying to swing the momentum. But Frank would fight back to hold in each, then broke Spencer at 2-3 to pull away en route to the 6-3 victory in the second.
“I knew it was going to be a grind,” Spencer said. “He’s a tough player – he’s only lost one match for a reason. He’s a solid player, he grinded. I thought I played well some points, but I got a little tired. He’s a guy that takes advantage. If you give him anything he’s going to jump on it. I had a lot of games where I had game points but I just made some stupid errors.”
“You don’t want to think about [your last match] too much because you have to focus on the match,” he said. “It’s been such a special time. It’s tough that I’m not ever going to play here again. I feel so much support and it’s been awesome.”
Spencer finishes his career with an 8-5 singles record in NCAA play and an overall singles record of 104-48. He went 33-13 in 2012 with 21 ranked wins. This was his best run in three career trips to the individual tournament with two prior first round losses, and he was the first Bulldog to reach the round of 16 since Nate Schnugg in 2009.
The Georgia men’s tennis team concluded its 2012 season with an overall team record of 26-3 and a 34th SEC championship in the books.
Skupski Ends Final Run at NCAA's
ATHENS, Ga. - LSU men’s tennis senior Neal Skupski’s career came to a close in heartbreaking-fashion, Friday, as he was forced to retire his match due to injury in the round of 16 at NCAA Singles Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
No. 55 Skupski met defeat at the hands of USC’s top-seeded Steve Johnson who has now won 69 consecutive matches.
After dropping the first set, Skupski battled back to make in 5-5 before going down with an ankle injury. He returned for one more point, before the match was retired 6-3, 6-5, in favor of No. 1 Johnson.
“At first playing against someone like Johnson, I think Neal felt pressured to perform at his absolute best which caused him to lose the first set,” head coach Jeff Brown said. “Neal did a good job of settling down in the second set, giving himself a chance before he went down with an injury. It is definitely an unfortunate ending to what has been a very successful career.”
The three-time All-American will finish the season 18-9 with six of those wins coming over ranked opponents. Overall, Skupski has racked up 78 victories in singles throughout his career and was ranked as high as No. 26 in the singles ITA rankings.
“This marks the end of an amazing career and the Skupski era,” Brown said. “Neal is a good leader and someone that we will miss a lot. We wish him the best of luck in the future. I know he is destined to do great things in the world of tennis.”
Ole Miss’ Scholtz, Thiemann’s Through To NCAA Elite Eight
ATHENS, Ga. – Ole Miss men’s tennis freshman Nik Scholtz avoided elimination again Friday, winning a hard-fought battle against Mississippi State’s Louis Cant 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 to advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals. His teammates, twins Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann, reached the Elite Eight in doubles with a three-set win of their own 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4 win against Georgia Tech’s Kevin King and Juan Spir.
Scholtz (21-8) makes it four straight years for the Rebels to have a player reach at least the quarterfinals in singles, while the twins become the third Rebel tandem in five years to reach the quarterfinals.
“This was a great day for the Rebels. We are very proud of all three players. We won two very hard fought matches, and the guys showed a lot of heart. It speaks to the success of our program to have four straight years with a quarterfinalist in singles. We’re looking forward to another great day tomorrow.”
Scholtz, the SEC Freshman of the Year, faced match points in his second round match on Thursday and fell behind early again Friday to Cant. At 4-4 in the first set, Cant broke Scholtz and served it out 6-4.
In the second set, Cant broke and led 5-3. He served for the match at 5-4, but Scholtz broke at love. Scholtz had triple game point to go up 6-5, but Cant forced it all the way back to deuce. Unfortunately, Scholtz had three straight double faults to give Cant another opportunity to serve for the match at 6-5. Cant was two points away from winning, and Scholtz won four straight points to force a tiebreaker. Scholtz dominated the tiebreaker 7-3 to send it to a third set.
At 1-1 in the third, Scholtz netted a break, but gave it right back for 2-2. The two traded breaks again for 3-3. At 4-4, Scholtz broke for the third time and served it out 6-4 to clinch the berth in the quarterfinals.
Scholtz will face the 2010 NCAA Champion, Bradley Klahn of Stanford in the quarterfinals Saturday.
The Thiemann’s also had to work hard to win their match against one of the nation’s top teams in GT’s King and Spir, ranked No. 3 and seeded No. 3.
The twins won the first set in a tiebreaker, after losing the early break they secured. The Jackets and Rebels were knotted, 6-6, at the changeover in the tiebreaker, but Ole Miss came back out and won the first two points to grab the set.
The second set remained on serve until the sixth game, when the Yellow Jackets broke and went ahead 4-2. After both teams held, Tech broke Ole Miss again to win the set, 6-3, and tie the match.
Tech won the first game of the final set on King’s serve, but Ole Miss broke on Spir’s serve to go up 2-1, then held on the rest of the way. The Rebels rebuffed a couple of break attempts by the Yellow Jackets to prevail, including one in the final game when Tech went ahead 40-30 in a bid to tie the set and get back on serve.
The Thiemann’s will face 63rd-ranked Baroz/Huegas (VCU) in the quarterfinals Saturday.
At the beginning of the year, the Thiemann’s talked of wanting to advance in the doubles after two first round exits in two prior appearances. In their third NCAA appearance as a team, the Thiemann’s have achieved that and more. By advancing to the third round of doubles, they earn All-America status, joining Scholtz in that achievement. Marcel becomes the fourth player to earn All-America honors three times, while Chris grabs the honor for the first time.
Alabama’s Guarachi and McLane Fall in NCAA Round of 16
ATHENS, Ga. – Alabama’s Alexa Guarachi and Courtney McLane, ranked 14th in the nation, fell 6-3, 6-3 to the No. 13 team in Baylor’s Ema Burgic and Nina Secerbegovic on Friday in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Doubles Championship. With the loss, the Crimson Tide duo finishes the season at 18-5 overall.
“Courtney and Alexa have led the way in doubles for us for the last couple years,” said Alabama head coach Jenny Mainz. “For them to be here three consecutive seasons, which is not easy to do, is very impressive. Every time that you get in this situation, you respond better. The more times we are in the postseason, both as a team and individually, the better we will be. I think we will continue to build on this and have a lot to be proud of.”
Burgic and Secerbegovic broke in the first and last games of the opening set to take it 6-3. In the second, Baylor broke early for the 3-1 edge before Alabama got the match back on serve to even the count at 3-3. From there, Burgic and Secerbegovic won the final three games to take the match and advance in the tournament.
“Overall, this year has been a testament to the improvement and dedication, and for this team to qualify two singles players and two doubles teams is pretty outstanding,” added Mainz. “We have come so far in the last few years and even farther this season. It is indicative of the hard work and commitment the team has put forth. I think we are definitely moving forward, and I am really proud of the things we were able to accomplish as a team. I am optimistic that this will pay dividends in the future.”
UT Tandem Advances To NCAA Quarterfinals
ATHENS, Ga. - Tennessee Lady Vol tennis senior Natalie Pluskota knew she let an opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Tournament slip away, falling 7-6 (1), 7-6 (6) to third-seeded Nicole Gibbs of Stanford on Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. She wouldn't let it happen again in doubles.
Pluskota and junior Kata Szekely used a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) victory over 18th-ranked Emily Fraser and Lindsey Hardenbergh (Virginia) to move on to Saturday's quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Tournament, both earning All-American honors in the process.
Despite allowing a 5-1 second-set lead to turn into a 6-5 deficit, Pluskota and Szekely became the third all-time Tennessee duo to reach the NCAA Doubles Tournament's "Elite Eight."
The Lady Vols tightened up, allowing Virginia to reel off five consecutive games - including two in which UT held 40-15 leads. That's when Pluskota and Szekely started to play their game again.
"They just went after it when they were down," said Szekely, who became the program's 15th all-time All-American with the win. "They tried to come back in the match and it happened. We didn't go after our shots as we had before. That's why they came back. After that, we just tried to stay positive. That was the most important thing to do. Thankfully, we broke them at 6-5."
Forcing a second-set tiebreaker, the two duos split the first four points. From there, it was all (Tennessee) orange as Pluskota and Szekely clinched the match with five points in a row.
"It's exciting," said Pluskota, who became the first Tennessee player to reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Tournament three times. "We're pumped. We left it all out there today and we came out on top. We're definitely going to celebrate, but we're also going to get ready for (Saturday)."
The outstanding senior is just the fourth UT player to become a four-time All-American. But it's her selfless attitude that has made her one of Tennessee's finest all-time doubles players.
"It's been a goal and a dream of mine to become a four-time All-American since my freshman year, but honestly, I'm just super pumped for Kata," Pluskota said. "I really wanted to get her All-American status and we accomplished that today."
The Lady Vols filled in a Big Orange checkmark Friday, but they still have unfinished business in Athens.
"It's great," Szekely said with a big smile. "Before the season started, that was one of my goals - to somehow become an All-American. I accomplished my biggest goal. Now, we have to go after it and try to win the tournament."
Pluskota and Szekely overcame their own deficit in the opening set, battling back from 4-2 and 5-4 holes. Fraser and Hardenbergh had set point but Tennessee's tandem retaliated to win the game.
Following UT's 6-5 lead, Virginia forced a tiebreaker that was dominated by Tennessee (7-3).
"Natalie has been there twice before in doubles and to get Kata a chance to be an All-American was special," said co-head coach Mike Patrick. "It's just pressure and they handled it as well as they could and fought to the very end. I'm just as proud as I can be of both of them."
For Pluskota, the end of the doubles match marked her fourth tiebreaker of the day, also playing two in singles.
Pluskota took the first break of the match in the first set to lead 4-2, but Gibbs battled back for a 4-all tie. Pluskota had two opportunities to close out the first set with another break at 5-4 and 6-5, but Gibbs held each time. After forcing the tiebreaker, Gibbs scored seven of eight points to go up a set.
Both players broke each other's serve to open the second set (1-1), but neither did the rest of the way. Pluskota forced the tiebreaker this time after trailing 6-5 and seemed to be running away with the race to seven, leading 5-1. After switching sides, Gibbs scored the next four points to tie it.
Pluskota held serve to lead 6-5 and had an opportunity to put it away at the net, but didn't get it over. Gibbs took advantage, scoring the next two points to win, 8-6.
"It was a battle," Pluskota said. "I left everything out there in my singles match. It was unfortunate it didn't go my way. I can't be upset. I had a quick turnaround to get ready for the doubles match and that was the most important thing going forward, getting a win in doubles."
That they did, winning for the 10th consecutive time and the 17th in 18 tries together.
On Saturday at 2 p.m. ET, they'll face Florida's Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather (ranked 22), who came back to defeat 5-8 seed Annie Goransson and Anett Schutting (California) 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in Friday's Round of 16 match.
Pluskota and Szekely defeated Embree and Mather, 8-3, in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships last November.
"We just have to go after it and leave it all out there," Pluskota said. "Everyone at this point is really good and wanting to win. We just have to stick to our gameplan and execute."
Quigley Advances to Singles Quarterfinals with Thrilling Victory
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- University of Kentucky men’s tennis senior Eric Quigley used a clutch performance Friday in the singles round of 16, winning two tiebreakers to defeat No. 13 Artem Ilyushin of Mississippi State and advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship on Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
Quigley and sophomore Panav Jha completed the day by winning a doubles match to advance to the doubles quarterfinals, while senior Alex Musialek lost a tight three-set battle in the singles round of 16 to No. 39 Alex Domijan of Virginia. This was the first time in school history that UK has had two players in the NCAA Round of 16.
Quarterfinals action for both singles and doubles will take place Saturday. Quigley will begin the day with a contest against No. 5 Henrique Cunha of Duke at Noon ET, before Quigley and Jha team up to face No. 1 Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola of Ohio State at 4 p.m. ET.
Quigley, who is ranked third in the nation in singles by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, becomes the first UK player to advance to the quarterfinals of the event since All-American Bruno Agostinelli went to the quarterfinals in 2009. The UK star is now one of four players to advance to at least the quarterfinals in school history, joining Jesse Witten, who went to the quarterfinals in 2005 and finals in 2002, and Carlos Drada who made the finals in 2000.
Quigley and Jha are the first UK duo since 2010 to advance to the quarterfinals of the doubles event, making the effort of Quigley and former All-American Brad Cox who went to the quarterfinals that year. The best finish in school history at the event was when Greg Van Emburgh and Rich Benson advanced to the semifinals in 1987.
Kentucky’s day started with Quigley’s straight-sets win over the highly ranked Illyushin. Quigley jumped out to a 5-3 lead and was serving for the first set before the Mississippi State star broke Quigley to force a tiebreaker. Quigley would perform well in the tiebreaker, posting the 7-5 win to earn the first set. The second set followed suit, with Quigley holding a lead late the set before Ilyushin was able to tie the match and force another tiebreaker. Quigley would jump out to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker before Ilyushin tied the score 4-4. Quigley would answer however, winning three straight points to claim the match 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).
“Eric played a really good match today against a great player,” Emery said. “He got off to a quick start, but their guy is a very streaky player and he was able to fight back in both sets and played well at the end. Quigley had to really fight that off to win the first tiebreaker, which was huge. The second set had the same kind of format. Just really pleased with how Eric kept fighting and was able to get the win.”
The win is Quigley’s 52nd of the season, improving his career record to an impressive 170-46. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., started the tournament with a victory over No. 41 Andre Dome of Cal Poly before taking down No. 18 Andreas Mies of Auburn to earn his spot into the round of 16.
“It should be a good match tomorrow between the tournament’s No. 3 and No. 5 seeds,” Emery said. “There hasn’t been a lot of upsets in the tournament this year, which is uncommon. Things are shaping up to where the last three days of the tournament should be really fun.”
Quigley and Jha continued their impressive performances in doubles by taking down No. 68 Andre Dome and Matt Fawcett of Cal Poly. Quigley/Jha went up a break early in the first set before the talented Cal Poly duo evened the set to force a tiebreaker that the UK tandem would eventual win 7-6 (5). Quigley/Jha had an easier time in the second set, posting a 6-3 win to claim the match.
“Another strong performance in doubles by Eric and Panav,” Emery said. “They went up an early break but weren’t able to hang on. They both did a great job of getting in their first serves and returning well in the tiebreaker for the win. They went up another early break in the second set and it’s not always easy to nurse those things through. But they did a good job today of holding serve for the final four games to get the win. That Cal Poly duo is very good and athletic and we handled that well today, especially with Quigley having to play twice.”
Quigley and Jha, who are ranked seventh in the nation in doubles by the ITA, are having a great season together in doubles, sitting 22-12 overall with wins over some of the best doubles teams in the nation.
Musialek completed the action by dropping his round of 16 matchup to Domijan of Virginia, who spent most of last season ranked first or second in the nation in singles. The UVa star played flawlessly in the first set, going up 6-0 before Musialek was able to grab a couple of breaks and win the second set 6-3. In the third set, Domijan again grabbed an early lead and held on for the 6-2 win to claim the match.
“Domijan came out and was playing very well in the first set,” Emery said. “Alex did a great job of turning the match around to break in the second set and even the match. Give credit to Coach (Cedric) Kauffmann who changed the strategy of the match, which was very effective. It was a very hot day here and they gave the players a 10-minute break from the heat. Domijan was able to come out of that break with some energy and that was the difference in the match.”
This was the first career appearance for Musialek in the NCAA Singles round of 16 after falling in the second round last season and the first round his sophomore season. The native of Dax, France ends his senior season 30-12 in singles and 108-49 for his career. Musialek, who is an All-American in singles this season and a first-team All-Southeastern Conference performer, ends his career with 108 singles wins, ranking him in the top 10 all time in singles wins in UK history.
For NCAA Tournament live scores, streaming video, ticket information and more, visit the tournament central webpage here: http://www.georgiadogs.com/sports/m-tennis/spec-rel/ncaa-2012.html.
UF’s Allie Will and Gator Doubles Team Advance to Quarterfinals of NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships
ATHENS, Ga. –University of Florida junior Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women’s Tennis Singles Championships on Friday with a hard-fought, straight-set victory against Georgia State’s Abigail Trer-Apisha at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
Later in the day the Gator doubles team of Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) earned a three-set win and marched in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships.
Will reached the round of eight for the first time in her career after bowing out in the NCAA Round of 16 the two previous years. The top-seeded Gator plays Texas A&M’s No. 7-seeded Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Embree and Mather, ranked No. 22, upset California’s No. 5-ranked Annie Goransson and Anett Schutting, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, in their NCAA Round of 16 contest and will play Tennessee’s No. 10 Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 2 p.m.
There were several long games in the first set of Will’s match against Trer-Apisha, who was the first-ever player from Georgia State selected to compete in the NCAA Singles Championships. Will came up with the big points to win six straight games after Trer-Apisha held to begin the match, including during her last serve in the first frame, where she fought off one break point and capitalized on her fourth game-point to take a 5-1 lead.
Will held and earned another break to begin the second set. That was the first of eight consecutive breaks, as Will managed to halt the run by turning away one match-point and taking advantage of her first match point. Will improved to 108-12 in her career, including 25-2 this year.
“I’ve been getting better mentally every single day,” Will said. “Today, I hit the ball a lot deeper and I went through some rough patches with my serve and she made me pay for that. I really had to think thoroughly for every serve and where I placed it. I’m just really happy I was able to close it out in two sets today. She made we work for every point today and she’s a great player.”
The Gator doubles team lost their serve in the third game of the match and that’s all Cal would need to take the opening frame after breaking again the ninth game to take the set. Florida quickly regrouped and opened the second with the break and Mather held for the 2-0 lead, as the Gators didn’t lose their serve again in the frame and forced a deciding third set. The first break of the third game in the fourth game and Mather followed that by holding and giving the Gators a 4-2 lead. Cal held and managed to break in the seventh game, but the Gators won the first three points off the Bear’s serve en route to the important break and they 5-3 lead. Mather again stepped up and lost just one point on her serve to close out the victory.
“We started off a little slow in the first set, I think we were flat on our feet when we were poaching,” Mather shared. “In the second set we were trying to be a little bit more aggressive and be more positive and keep the match going.”
“We knew we needed to stay more positive and have more energy in the second set, especially in the beginning,” Embree said. “That kind of turned things around for us.”
As a team, Embree and Mather improve to 55-8 all-time, with a 29-3 record this year. Their 55 wins rank as the fourth-most by a Gator tandem in program history. Individually, Embree sports a career 95-15 doubles record, as well as a 29-4 mark this year. Mather is 112-31 in her doubles career – the seventh most wins in UF history, with a 30-4 record this season.
Embree came up on the short end of her NCAA Round of 16 singles match against Duke’s No. 2-ranked Beatrice Capra, 6-1, 6-3, and her magnificent singles season closed with a 31-6 record this year and a 91-13 career mark.
Embree ran into the event’s No. 2-seed Capra, who made the Gator All-American work for every point, which seemed to average 15 rallies. Embree earned her first break in the match to take a 3-2 in the second set, but Capra broke right back and held for a 4-3 lead. The then broke Embree again and served out for the win.