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Caroline Hitimana captured her 27th consecutive dual match singles win.
Fifth-ranked Florida won a thrilling doubles point and took that momentum onto the singles court where they raced to big leads early en route to a 7-0 victory against South Carolina at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex and on warm and breezy Saturday afternoon.
The Gators improved to 179-1 all-time at home against Southeastern Conference foes and have won their last 71 at the Ring Tennis Complex versus league opponents.
Florida (9-2, 2-1 SEC) also extended its overall home win streak to 113, the longest active home winning streak by any NCAA Division I women’s team in any sport.
The Gators were using a new doubles lineup this week and put to the test by the Gamecocks, who split the first two matches and were rallying in the deciding match. Florida jumped out to a 7-1 lead and South Carolina tied the score, before the Gators regrouped and took the 9-7 and the doubles point.
“That was a great win and gave us a lot of momentum and confidence in the locker room between doubles and singles,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “I’m really proud of the way they found their composure and were able to close out the win.
“Overall, this was an impressive win,” Thornqvist continued. “I thought we looked strong on every court and played smart tennis.”
Florida was dominant on the singles courts, winning two games on all six courts and eventually the opening set on each.
Freshman Brianna Morgan raced out to a commanding lead en route to the first double-bagel victory of her career, as she downed Dominika Kanakova, 6-0, 6-0 on court four and gave the Gators a 2-0 lead. The Gator rookie fought off a pair of break points in the final game before taking the victory on her first match point. Morgan improved to 17-5 overall and 8-1 in dual match singles action.
Olivia Janowicz won the opening seven games of her match against Ximena Siles Luna, who finally held and prevented the double-bagel. The Gator junior returned to form and ripped off the final three games, also having to stave off a pair of break points in the final game before capturing the win on her second match-point opportunity and giving Florida a 3-0 lead in the team scoring.
Sofie Oyen won the first eight games on court two against Jaklin Alawi, until the Gamecock earned a break and held to even the second set 2-all and prevented Oyen’s second double-bagel win of the season. The Gator junior regrouped and won the final four games, breaking to win the match and clinching the dual match victory, as she collect the 74th singles win of her career.
Caroline Hitimana was the fourth Gator to win her respective singles match, as she earned a 6-2, 6-1 win against Josefin Andersson on court six and extended Florida’s advantage to 5-0. The victory was Hitimana’s 27th consecutive dual match singles win, as the Gator senior improved to 17-1 all-time in SEC dual matches.
Lauren Embree had a double-bagel lead through 11 games, but Katerina Popova managed to hold serve and then broke before Embree captured another break to take the win on court one, 6-0, 6-2. The victory was Embree’s 26th consecutive dual match win, her 32nd straight in SEC dual matches (32-0) and the 105th overall of her career.
Alexandra Cercone won the first three games of her match on court three versus Elixane Lechemia, who stormed back and won the next three. Cercone held and then earned a break, but couldn’t close out the set on her serve, instead breaking Lechemia to capture the first set, 6-4. Lechemia got the upper hand early in the second set, eventually taking it 6-3 and forcing a deciding 10-point super-tiebreak where the Gator junior won the first four points. After Lechemia won the next three, Cercone ripped off the last seven points to win the final match on court, 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 (10-3), in two hours and three minutes.
Caroline Hitimana and Olivia Janowicz paired together for the first time this year in a dual match and the tandem jumped out to a 7-1 lead on court three, where the doubles point was to be decided after the other two matches had split results.
The victory wasn’t a sure thing, however, as South Carolina’s Elixane Lechemia and Ximena Siles Luna caught fire and won six consecutive games, including two of those games at love, and tied the score at 7-all with the serve. The Gators fought back and earned a break before Hitimana served out for the 9-7 victory, losing just one point on her serve and helped the Gators capture the doubles point.
That match on court three proved to be the clincher after Florida’s Lauren Embree and Brianna Morgan earned an 8-2 victory on court two against Josefin Andersso and Katerina Popova in 35 minutes. The Gators took a 4-0 lead before SC earned a break and trailed 4-2. Embree held and the Gators broke a love for a 6-2 advantage. The Gamecocks broke right back, but the Gators earned their fourth break of the match to take win.
Four minutes later South Carolina (8-5, 1-2 SEC) captured its first individual of the day, as Jakllin Alawi and Dominika Kanakova handed Alexandra Cercone and Sofie Oyen an 8-1 setback, leaving court three to decide the doubles point.
Florida returns to action on Friday, March 15, when the Gators play host to ninth-ranked Georgia beginning at 5 p.m. Admission is free and the first 250 fans will receive Gator Tennis Tumblers.