Top-Seeded Gators Roll Into Sweet 16
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gator seniors Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) made their final home appearance a memorable one, as they helped Florida earn a 4-0 win against No. 23 Georgia Tech in the second round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championships played at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on Sunday afternoon.
Florida advances to NCAA Round of 16 and plays No. 15 Duke (16-9) on Friday, May 17 at 10 a.m.ET/9 a.m. CT, in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. The Blue Devils knocked off host Texas Tech, 4-3, in their second-round match.
Embree and Hitmana were on the two doubles teams that captured wins and ultimately the doubles point to begin the match, before Embree’s 6-0, 6-0 singles victory gave Florida a 2-0 lead in the team scoring.
Freshman Brianna Morgan (Beverly Hills, Calif.) and junior Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) provided the final two singles wins that helped the Gators win their 17th consecutive match and march into the NCAA Round of 16 for the 30th time in the 32-year history of the event.
“I thought we played excellent doubles,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “One doubles was really fun to watch because they have a really quality one doubles team. I like the momentum that carried us into the beginning part of singles after that and I just don’t think we every really looked back. We looked fit. We moved well. The crowd really helped us also, so I was very pleased with pretty much everything today.”
Embree’s win against Elizabeth Kilborn was her 20th consecutive singles victory, as well as her 38th straight in dual match competition, as she improved to 116-14 in her overall singles career, including a 14-0 record in NCAA dual matches.
Hitimana, who held a 6-1, 3-3 lead in her singles match when play was abandoned, paired with junior Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) at the No. 2 doubles position, where the tandem posted an impressive 8-2 win for the first individual victory of the afternoon. That decision proved to be an important one, as Georgia Tech claimed the outcome on court three, before Embree and junior Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) provided the clinching 8-6 win for the doubles point.
Hitimana, who improved to 12-1 in her NCAA doubles dual match career, and Embree capped their collegiate home career leading the Gators to a perfect 55-0 record at the Ring Tennis Complex and became just the sixth Gator senior class to finish with an undefeated home mark.
“It is bittersweet to not be able to play another match here at home,” Embree shared. “Our fans were great today, a lot of people showed up for our match. It was good to play in front of the fans. It is always good to play in front of them. Their support means a lot to us. We are not done yet. We are still going to go to Champaign and hopefully continue this year and see how it goes.”
Florida (24-2), which hasn’t been as dominating on the doubles court as in recent years, battled and won the doubles point for the 16th time this season.
Cercone and Hitimana jumped out to a 4-1 lead on court two against Jasmine Minor and Natasha Prokhnevska, who earned a break in the sixth game, but lost serve in the seventh, as Hitimana held for a 6-2 Gator lead, fighting off three break points. The UF tandem then broke at love and Cercone served out for the 8-2 win.
Georgia Tech (15-10) followed by taking the decision on court three, leaving the doubles point outcome to court one, where Embree and Oyen were playing long, exciting rallies against Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard. Embree held for a 5-3 lead and the Gators capitalized on their fifth break point on Woodard in the ninth game for a 6-3 advantage. Oyen went to the baseline and held double-game point, but could not close it out as the Yellow Jacket pair swatted away three game points and got the break o their first opportunity. Kurey then held, as did Embree, who gave the Gators a 7-5 lead. Oyen later served out for the 8-6 win and the doubles point.
On the singles court, Embree posted a double-bagel decision for the second straight match and the fifth time in her career, downing Elizabeth Kilborn in 59 minutes.
“The last game I was thinking about it,” said Embree of knowing that this would be the final home match of her career. “Before the game I knew I wanted to finish my match for the last time so the last game I was thinking about it that my chances were pretty high to finish. The last point when I was done I was thinking I am never going to play here. But we still have this year and hopefully a couple more matches to go so I’m not too sad yet. I haven’t really thought about it yet.”
Morgan followed with a 6-1, 6-2 win against Megan Kurey on court four, as the Gator rookie won her 11th consecutive singles match.
Janowicz provided the clinching dual match victory, a 6-2, 6-3 win over Muriel Wacker that helped the Gators cap their home slate with a 14-0 record, the 23rd undefeated home record in program history and extend their overall home win streak to 121, the longest active run of any NCAA Division I women’s team in any sport.
Sunday’s victory also was the 300th win for Thornqvist, who is 300-33 in 12 years with the Gators.
“I have been blessed with players like this,” said Thornqvist of the milestone victory. “That makes it much easier to reach that number.”
Georgia Dismisses Arizona State
ATHENS, Ga.—The No. 4 seeded Georgia women’s tennis team punched its ticket to the round of 16, topping Arizona State 4-0 Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Georgia (23-3) will face the No. 13 seed Clemson Friday, May 17 at 12:00 p.m. CT in Champaign, Ill.
It’s the 13th time that the Bulldogs have advanced to the round of 16 since the tournament moved to its current format in 1999. Georgia improves to 24-0 in first and second round matches that have been hosted in Athens.
"In college tennis you look at a score of 4-0 and think that it was easy, but that certainly wasn't the case,” said head coach Jeff Wallace. “Each time Arizona State raised their game, we would match it and raise ours a little more. At the end when we clinched we actually led on every court. I'm so proud of our team. It's such an exciting day to go on to the Sweet 16. We're fired up that we get to go on to Illinois, and we're looking forward to this next opportunity."
Georgia won its 24th doubles point of the season with wins on courts one and two. Silvia Garcia and Kate Fuller, the top-ranked tandem in the country, beat Arizona State’s No. 31 team of Jacqueline Cako and Nicole Smith, 8-3. They are now 10-2 versus nationally ranked opponents this season. Arizona State evened the doubles point when Hannah James and Joanna Smith topped Georgia’s Ayaka Okuno and Mia King, 8-3. The Bulldogs’ No. 52 duo of Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase clinched the point with an 8-4 defeat of Desirae Krawczyk and Leighann Sahagun.
In singles, Georgia got wins on courts 3-5 to clinch the victory. The Bulldogs led on every court when the match was suspended.
Kate Fuller was first off the court with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Stephanie Vlad. The win was Fuller’s 30th of the 2012-13 campaign. No. 104 Garcia gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead with a thrilling 6-2, 7-6 (1) win over Sahagun. Garcia improves to 23-3 in her freshman campaign. Okuno clinched the match and punched Georgia’s ticket to Champaign, Ill., with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Hannah James. Okuno clinched Georgia’s 4-0 win over Winthrop on Saturday.
"We're so excited to be in the Sweet 16,” Fuller said. “We played really well, and it was a good battle. We knew after the doubles point they were going to come out and play really well in singles. We saw that yesterday against Oklahoma. We lost three first sets and they were really playing well, but it was good to see how everyone responded to that. By the time that match was over, everyone was in the lead, so that gives us a really good feeling going up to Illinois."
With today’s win, Georgia improves to 3-1 all-time versus Arizona State. The Sun Devils finish the year 17-6.
Georgia prepares to face a very familiar opponent in the round of 16 in Clemson. The Bulldogs are 25-19 all-time versus Clemson, including a 5-2 win on the road earlier this season.
The NCAA Championships will begin in at the University of Illinois Thursday with the men's round of 16. The women's round of 16 matches are slated for Friday, and the finals for both genders will be played Tuesday, May 21. The singles and doubles portion of the tournament will begin May 22.
No. 3 Texas A&M Advances with 4-1 Win Over TCU
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – For only the second time in school history, No. 3 Texas A&M will advance to the round of 16 of the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship after defeating 29th-ranked TCU, 4-1, in the second round today at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
The No. 3-seed Aggies (23-3), who also advanced to the round of 16 in 2004, will take on No. 14-seed Virginia (19-9), Friday at 4 p.m. at the University of Illinois’ Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex at the Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana, Ill. The Cavaliers, who have lost to Texas A&M twice this season, posted a dramatic victory against Texas, winning a tiebreaker in the last match standing to advance.
A&M, having won the last three regular-season meetings against the Horned Frogs, entered the match tied with TCU (18-7), 1-1, in NCAA tournament matches. The Aggies gained the early momentum in today’s match-up with two easy wins to capture the doubles point.
The 49th-ranked senior tandem of Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Sun Wen gave the Aggies the edge in the race for the doubles point, winning their first six games en route to an 8-1 victory over TCU’s Federica Denti and Kelsey Sundaram at the No. 2 line.
Freshmen twins Ines and Paula Deheza clinched the point for the Aggies and ran their winning streak to seven with a win at the No. 3 line. They were tied, 2-2, with Monika Sirilova and Stefanie Tan before reeling off six consecutive games to close out the 8-2 victory that gave A&M a 1-0 lead.
A&M’s 18th-ranked team of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu held a 6-3 lead over 53rd-ranked Millie Nichols and Olivia Smith when the point was clinched and play was stopped.
Singles began with A&M quickly notching straight-set victories at the Nos. 3 and 4 courts to take a 3-0 lead. Senior Nazari Urbina, ranked No. 52, posted her 98th career victory with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over 122nd-ranked Smith at the No. 3 line to put the Aggies ahead, 2-0.
Ines Deheza won four consecutive games to close out a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Sundaram at No. 4 to give the Aggies a 3-0 lead.
Despite the deficit, TCU began gaining the momentum. Sirilova put the Horned Frogs on the board and cut the margin to 3-1 with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Sun at the No. 5 line. TCU also won first sets on courts 1, 2 and Denti had built a 5-0 first set lead over Hristov at the No. 6 line.
Never one to be counted out, Hristov charged back, winning the next five games to tie the set at 5-5. Denti took a 6-5 lead, but Hristov fought off five set points to tie the frame at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker. Hristov won the first three points in the tiebreaker and went on to win, 7-4, to take the set.
Hristov didn’t drop a game in the second set to complete the 7-6 (4), 6-0 victory to clinch the winning point and send the Aggies to the Illinois and the round of 16.
Sanchez-Quintanar, ranked No. 4, had lost her first set, 6-4, to 44th-ranked Tan at the No. 1 court and the score was tied, 5-5, in the second set when Hristov clinched the match. Also 68th-ranked Stancu had struggled at No. 2, playing through an ankle injury suffered early in the first set. Stancu was leading Simona Parajova, 3-2, in the opening frame before suffering the injury. Although Stancu went on to win the game to take a 4-2 lead, Parajova took advantage of the situation and came back to win the set, 7-5. Stancu then won the second set, 6-0, to force a third set and was leading 3-2 when play was stopped.