The No. 14 Wildcat women’s tennis team (9-0 overall, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) won its ninth consecutive match with just the second win in school history over the No. 31 Florida Gators (6-4, 0-1 SEC). Freshman Caroline Lilley helped push the Cats to the 4-3 win over UF Friday afternoon in Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
Head coach Carlos Drada becomes just the second coach to defeat the Orange and Blue. The last time UK won against Florida was in 2005 on March 13 under former head coach Mark Guilbeau with Drada as the assistant.
“Today was a whole team effort, including the people in the stands,” Drada said. “We have a lot of pride for our program and today the players exhibited discipline and implemented the strategies we’ve been practicing every day. Everyone believed we could get it done. Florida is an amazing team and will always be a powerhouse in tennis. It is a privilege to accomplish such a feat and learn from this situation and improve for the rest of the season.”
The doubles point went to Kentucky. Court three finished first with a convincing 8-1 decision by junior Whitney Spencer and sophomore Lauren Meier. The Wildcat duo defeated Florida’s Barbara Pinterova and Laura Wolken. As it seemed UK was going to quickly clinch doubles with court one after a 7-1 lead, the Gators’ No. 69 pair Jessica Alexander and Anastasia Revzina rallied back within two games. But Kentucky’s No. 53 tandem of senior Carolina Escamilla and freshman Caroline Lilley closed out the match, finishing 8-5.
UF tied the match with the first singles win on court two. No. 48 Revzina defeated Kentucky’s No. 96 Megan Broderick, 6-2, 6-3. Florida then took a 2-1 lead shortly after with a 6-2, 6-1 victory on court one as No. 8 Marrit Boonstra defeated Escamilla.
UK’s Johnston evened the Cats out with the Gators after taking a grueling three-set match against Joanna Mather. Johnston nabbed the first set, 6-1, but then fell in the second 6-1. The Columbus, Ohio, native took home the third set for the Blue and White, 6-2.
In her spring season debut, Meier took the Cats ahead to 3-2 after playing a flawless 6-0, 6-0 match against Wolken. But Florida tied it up again after winning in three sets on court five. The Gators’ Alexander defeated Spencer, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
For the third time this season and second consecutive, the match would be decided by court five and Kentucky’s Lilley.
“It’s always nice to have your teammates there cheering you on,” Lilley said. “What gets me through the pressure is having a very descriptive work plan and being able to follow it through. The coaches, both Carlos and [Lyndsay] Shosho know what to say to me to calm me down so I can go and play my game. I know that they have confidence in me and they will see any adjustments I need to make. Today what really helped was the contagious atmosphere because everyone was fighting on every court. Whitney [Spencer] really gave me the confidence and energy to just go for it.”
The Wildcat rookie took the first set 6-3 then jumped in front 3-0 over Pinterova. Lilley then extended her lead to 5-0 but after four match points, Florida won its first game of the second set making it 5-1. With five more match points, Lilley sealed the deal with a 6-1 win and the defeat of the Florida Gators.
“Caroline thrives under pressure,” Drada commented. “She wants to be the person who has the ball in the last second of the game. When she goes into a match in that situation, we have a good chance that we’ll be able to win the match. Regardless of the score, she executes. Even more than the score, she keeps improving every time and plays at a higher level of awareness and accountability. She’s going to continue to be a strong force on the team.”
The Wildcats will continue SEC play Sunday, March 8 against No. 29 South Carolina starting at noon in the Boone Tennis Center.
Live stats for both matches will be available at www.ukathletics.com, your source for all the latest Kentucky tennis news.
#14 Kentucky 4, #31 Florida 3
1. #8 Marrit Boonstra (UF) def. Carolina Escamilla, 6-2, 6-1
2. #48 Anastasia Revzina (UF) def. #96 Megan Broderick, 6-2, 6-3
3. Christine Johnston (UK) def. Joanna Mather (UF), 6-1, 1-6, 6-2
4. Jessica Alexander (UF) def. Whitney Spencer (UK), 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
5. Caroline Lilley (UK) def. Barbara Pinterova (UF), 6-3, 6-1
6. Lauren Meier (UK) def. Lauren Wolken (UF), 6-0, 6-0
1. #53 Escamilla/Lilley (UK) def. #69 Alexander/Revzina (UF), 8-5
2. Boonstra/Mather (UF) def. Broderick/Johnston (UK), 8-6
3. Spencer/Meier (UK) def. Pinterova/Wolken (UF), 8-1
Order of finish:
Singles: 2, 1, 3, 4, 6, 5*
Doubles: 3, 1, 2