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    SEC Tennis Today: May 26

    UF’s Allie Will Advances to Semifinals of NCAA Women’s Tennis Singles Championships

    ATHENS, Ga. – Florida’s Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Women’s Tennis Singles Championships on Saturday after her 6-3, 6-3 quarterfinal victory against Texas A&M’s No. 7-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.

    The top-seeded Gator will play Stanford’s third-seeded Nicole Gibbs on Sunday at Noon in the semifinals. Will and Gibbs have squared off twice on the collegiate level, with Will taking this year’s regular-season dual match decision 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on Feb. 12 in Stanford and Gibbs winning last year’s meeting on May 27 in the round of 16 at the 2011 NCAA Singles Championships, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3).

    On Saturday, Will opened her quarterfinal match with a break and held at love for the 2-0 lead. Sanchez won the next three games to get the set back on-serve. Will held and won a long game on Sanchez’s serve to take the important break to go up, 4-3. The Gator junior held and earned another break to win the first set. She then jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second before Sanchez held. The next four games were breaks before Will went to the baseline with a 5-3 lead and served out for the victory.

    “Mentally, I’ve been getting better every single day and I thought I really went for it today,” Will shared. “Sanchez played a lot like I do. I just tried to hit the ball deep and move forward whenever possible. I was really happy that I went for it when I was up 5-3. I had an especially big forehand today and that’s why I was able to close it out.”

    Will improved to 109-12 in her career, including 26-2 this year. She reached the NCAA Round of 16 each of her first two years at the national singles event and is making her first semifinal appearance.

    “I’m very excited,” Will said of reaching the NCAA Semifinals. “Today, I honestly did not focus on winning so much. I just thought about playing every single point and I went after it a lot more and that’s why I’m in the semifinals. I’m really looking forward to playing Nicole Gibbs tomorrow. She’s a great player and we always have a really good match.”

    The Gator doubles team of Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) lost a heartbreaker in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships, falling 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3) to Tennessee’s No. 10-ranked team of Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely. Embree and Mather held two match points in the 12th game of the third set, but Vols pair fought them off and held to force the tiebreaker, which they won against the No. 22-ranked Florida tandem.

    As a team, Embree and Mather conclude their career pairing with a 55-9 all-time record, with a 29-4 mark coming this year. Their 55 wins rank as the fourth-most by a Gator tandem in program history. Individually, Embree sports a career 95-16 doubles record, as well as a 29-5 mark this year. Mather posted a 112-32 in her doubles career – the seventh most wins in UF history, with a 30-5 record this season.

    Aces Help Kentucky's Quigley Defeat No. 5 Cunha, Advance to Final Four
    LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind dynamic serving, including back-to-back aces to clinch the match, University of Kentucky men’s tennis senior Eric Quigley became the third player in school history to advance to the NCAA Singles Championship Final Four when he defeated No. 5 Henrique Cunha of Duke in the quarterfinals Saturday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.
    The victory for Quigley moves him into the national semifinals for the first time in his career and only the third time in school history. The UK star joins fellow All-Americans Jesse Witten and Carlos Drada as the only players to advance to the semifinals of the singles event. Witten was the last to claim the feat, making the finals of the event in 2002, while Drada made the finals in 2000. Witten and Drada both lost in the finals.
    “I play my best when I am not tense or thinking too much about what is ahead,” Quigley said after the match. “I wanted to make sure that I was relaxed out there today and that I stayed aggressive. I have a lot of confidence right now and I am just trying to keep that going.”
    Quigley, who is ranked third in the nation in singles and seeded third in the tournament, will face No. 9 Blaz Rola of Ohio State in the semifinals Sunday at a time to be determined. The two stars have not faced each other this season, but met twice last season with each player earning a win. Rola won the first meeting, defeating Quigley in a thrilling three-set battle that had two sets end in a tiebreaker in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships. Quigley would earn the second meeting when he took down Rola in three sets in a dual match in Lexington.
    Rola defeated second-seeded Mitchell Frank of Virginia in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals. The Buckeye sophomore has 36 singles wins this season. The nation’s No. 1 ranked player Steve Johnson of Southern California and the 2010 NCAA Singles Champion Bradley Klahn of Stanford will play in the other semifinal.
    “Blaz is a really good player,” Quigley said about his opponent Sunday. “We played a couple times last season and I remember they were both really good matches. I know it’s going to be a tough match tomorrow.”
    The victory in singles action continues the most successful season in school history for Quigley. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., is now 53-7 on the season, moving his career record to 171-46 – with both win totals being school records. Quigley started the event with a win over No. 41 Andre Dome of Cal Poly before punching his ticket to the Sweet 16 with a straight-sets victory over No. 18 Andreas Mies of Auburn. Quigley has not lost a set in the tournament so far.
    Quigley and Cunha played a very tight first set, with each player holding serving four consecutive times to make the score 4-4. Quigley, who served first in the match, then held serve to go up 5-4 and used some aggressive play to break Cunha and claim the first set 6-4.
    “Eric put together a great game at 5-4 to earn the break and win the first set,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “He started to play more aggressive and made some shots to get that break and it was a big key to the match.”
    Quigley held to start the second set and had two break points on Cunha in the second game before the Duke star was able to fight off the break and hold. Cunha would then turn the tables on Quigley, breaking the Wildcat to take a 3-1 lead. Quigley would respond by winning four consecutive games, including breaking Cunha twice to go up 5-3 and have a chance to serve for the match. After falling behind love-30 in his service game, Quigley rallied to tie the score 30-30 and then hit back-to-back aces to clinch the match.
    “I came out and served well the entire match and that was key for me,” Quigley said. “I made some silly errors in the first set, but I was able to serve well and hit some big shots at big points. I got a break to end the first set and was able to really get going in the second to get a couple breaks and win the match.”
    “In the second set, Eric had a chance to break early but Cunha did a great job to fight it off and then swung the momentum his direction to get a break,” Emery said. “Eric made a few adjustments after that and really started to use his serve to get out of trouble and work around problems. That is probably the best he has done all year at using his serve to his advantage. I was very proud overall of his effort today.”
    UK’s top doubles duo of Quigley and sophomore Panav Jha could not continue their impressive run in the doubles event, falling in the quarterfinals to the nation’s top-ranked duo of Rola and Chase Buchanan of Ohio State. Rola/Buchanan grabbed an early break in the first set and then broke UK again at 5-3 to win the first set 6-3. The Ohio State duo started the second set strong as well, breaking to go up 3-0 before UK would break for the first time in the set to tie the score 4-4. Buchanan/Rola would answer, winning the final two games to claim the set 6-4 and the match.
    “Cawood Ledford said a long time ago after the men’s basketball team lost to Duke, ‘Wow, that’s why they are No. 1’ and that described the match today,” Emery said. “They were a little more solid than we were and are very deserving winners. It should be a great semifinal tomorrow between the top two doubles teams in the nation.”
    Quigley and Jha, who are ranked seventh in the nation in doubles by the ITA, had a great season together in doubles, finishing 22-13 overall with wins over some of the best doubles teams in the nation. The UK stars became the first UK duo since 2010 to advance to the quarterfinals of the doubles event, matching 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.
    “The loss closes out a chapter of Eric’s playing career that really spoke to his ability to grow as a player,” Emery said. “Eric was 12-14 in doubles as a freshman but in his final three years he earned two All-American honors in doubles and became the first player in school history to advance to the NCAA Doubles Elite Eight twice.”

    Gullickson and Gilchrist Cruise In To NCAA Doubles Semifinals

    ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia seniors Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist cruised in to the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships here Saturday, dispatching California’s  Jana Juricova and Zsofi Susanyi, 6-1,6-2.

    The 27th-ranked Bulldog duo improved to 23-7 this season (63-20 in their career as a tandem) while the the 15th-ranked California pair dropped to 21-4. This marks the second time in the Georgia duo’s career that they have made it to the semifinals of the NCAAs. They made it that far in 2010 when the event was last held in Athens at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

    “They came out hot and played as good as I’ve seen them play all year,” said Georgia coach Jeff Wallace. “Nadja’s ground strokes were fantastic;  they both moved their feet well at the net and that quick start made it an uphill battle for Cal.”

    After Gilchrist held serve to open the match, the Bulldogs picked up an early break on Juricova for a 2-0 advantage. The Bears failed to convert two break point opportunities on Gullickson’s serve in the next game and Georgia held serve. The Bears didn’t hold serve until the sixth game of the match when Juricova used a powerful service game to make it 5-1. The momentum didn’t last for the Bears. Gullickson served for the set, and and Gilchrist slammed a winner on the first set point. In the second set, the Bears came out sharper as Susanyi held serve and immediately notched a break for a 2-0 edge. However, the Bulldog duo responded by taking the next six games for the match. A key point came in the fifth game as the Bears seemed poised for a 3-2 lead after going up 40-love. The Gilchrist/Gullickson duo stormed back to win five straight points and take the game and then cruised to victory.

    “I want to win it for Chelsey, we’ve made it to the semifinals before, and I know Chelsey wanted to do well in singles again, but all we have left is doubles,” said Gilchrist. “We were feeling it today; we were on fire and seemed like we made every ball. It was fun, and I’m excited that we won quickly.”

    This was the second meeting between the Bulldog and Bear tandems. They squared off earlier this season during the quarterfinals of the ITA Indoor Team Championship in February with the Bears registering an 8-1 win.

    In the semifinals Sunday, the Bulldogs will face the ninth-ranked UCLA team of Courtney Dolehide and Palmela Montez. They beat Baylor’s Ema Burgic and Nina Secerbegovic 6-1,3-6,6-3 Saturday. The time of the match has not been set , and it will not be before noon.

    “We’ve got UCLA next, and they have a great team,” said Gullickson. “We’re not in the singles so we feel like we’ll be fresh and confident. We’re keeping it basic, making our returns and volleys and playing smart.”

    UT Duo Earns Spot In NCAA Doubles Final Four

    ATHENS, Ga. - Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely overcame a 5-3 third-set deficit and won a tiebreaker to defeat Florida's Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3) on Saturday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, marking the third time in four years that Tennessee will be represented in the NCAA Doubles Tournament Semifinals.

    The 10th-ranked Lady Vol duo faces second-seeded Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) in Sunday's semifinal match at 4 p.m. ET.

    "Every time, it gets a little more and more special," said Pluskota, who advanced to the tournament's semifinals in 2009 and the championship match in 2010 with Caitlin Whoriskey. "It's definitely a great opportunity. To do it with Kata, a different player, is tremendous and exciting. Hopefully, we can win this next one and go onto the National Championship."

    Florida's 22nd-ranked duo broke Szekely's serve to take a 5-3 advantage in the decisive set, but it was the tennis program's 15th All-American who would get the last laugh.

    Tennessee quickly broke back and set up a dramatic game with the opportunity to tie the set.

    Just as fast as Pluskota and Szekely took a game from Florida, the Gators were seemingly on the verge of doing the same to win the match and advance, but squandered three match points.

    After UF scored the first three points of the game (40-0), Tennessee reeled off the next five - using an ace from Pluskota and several big shots from Szekely to tie the set at five, the turning point in the match according to Szekely.

    "I really got broke the whole day," Pluskota said. "We just decided to go one point at a time. It was really important for me to get my first serves in to hopefully set up Kata to close out the point. Fortunately, we were able to string a handful of points together and then come back and tie it up."

    Embree and Mather held serve for a 6-5 lead and again scored the first two points of the following game to swing momentum back in their favor. The Lady Vols scored five of the next six points to force a tiebreaker, their fourth in three matches at the NCAA Tournament.

    Just as they stayed undefeated in 2012 (11-0), they took their game to another level to remain unbeaten in the tournament's tiebreakers.

    "I was really confident in the tiebreaker because we had already played three at this tournament and we won all of them," Szekely said. "I knew if we focused on every single point and went by one point at a time, we'd be OK. I was really excited because I felt like once we got to the tiebreaker, we would have more chances than they would."

    UF snatched two of the first three points, but Tennessee scored three straight before the duos switched sides.

    Florida pulled within 4-3, but every time they thought they had another point, it was the Big Orange duo flying around the court and making plays, culminating in Szekely's match-clinching shot down the line.

    "When we started in September, this is kind of how we thought the whole season would go," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "Instead, we've got a great last 10 days. It's been special. These kids will remember some of these things forever. That last shot that Kata hit, she'll never forget for the rest of her life. It's a lot of fun."

    The pairs split two highly-competitive 6-4 sets to force the third frame, with Tennessee taking the opening stanza. Each team got out to 4-1 leads in the first two sets. Florida came back in the first set and got within 4-3 and 5-4, before the Lady Vols took the advantage. UT won three consecutive games to tie the second set, 4-4, before Florida forced the thrilling final set.

    Rebel Twins Reach NCAA Final Four In Doubles
    ATHENS, Ga. – Ole Miss senior twins Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann reached the NCAA Final Four Saturday, coming back and winning a third-set tiebreaker against VCU’s Antoine Baroz and Alexis Heugas.  Freshman Nik Scholtz ended his run in the NCAA Singles, losing in straight sets to the 2010 NCAA Champion, Bradley Klahn (Stanford).
    For the second time this week, the twins had to rally to win their match and for the third straight day it came down to a third set.  The VCU team won the first set 6-2, but the Thiemann’s rallied to win the second 6-3.   The Thiemann’s led 4-3 in the third after breaking Baroz and Huegas, but the VCU duo broke right back.  At 5-6, the twins held to force a tiebreak, which they won 7-4 to clinch the victory and improve to 19-6.
    “It was really tough, we started off really slow. The other guys got an early break and fortunately we came back in the second set with a break of our own. We picked up our game late luckily,” Chris said.
    This is the Thiemann’s third NCAA Doubles appearance, but in each of the two previous trips, they’ve lost in the first round.  
    “Chemistry, we know each other and we know what each other can do,” said Marcel on what fueled the late charge in the match.  “This is our third time at the NCAA’s, and our goal was actually just to win the first round because we didn’t do that the other two times. We’re just enjoying everything, being seniors now.”
    “It’s unbelievable. You always imagine this early in the season, making it to the NCAA’s and now it’s just unbelievable that we get to play the semis tomorrow,” Chris added.  “Like Marcel said, we’re just going to try and enjoy ourselves.”
    The Thiemann’s will face the Texas Tech duo, 18th-ranked Raony Carvalho and Gonzalo Escobar, who defeated the No. 2 ranked team of Steven Johnson and Robert Quiroz of Southern Cal in the quarterfinals. That match will be played at 4:30 p.m. CT.  
    Unfortunately, their teammate, Scholtz, won’t be joining them in the semifinals.  In his first three matches, Scholtz, seeded 9-16, went the distance winning in third sets, including erasing several match points in his second round to win.  
    This time, Klahn, ranked No. 36 in the nation, gained the early momentum, winning the first set 6-1 and then gaining a break to take the second set 6-3 for the win.  
    Scholtz marked the fourth year in a row for the Rebels to have a quarterfinalist in the NCAA Singles Championship.  He concluded an outstanding rookie campaign at 21-9.  The South African’s list of accomplishments includes SEC Freshman of the Year, ITA Southern Region Rookie of the Year and becoming the second freshman in the history of the program to earn All-America honors.
    “We’re extremely proud of the twins.  They played really well in the clutch.   It’s great to see them playing well and having fun out there.   Even though Nik didn’t win, he had a great first year, and we’re looking forward to next year with him leading us.”