Women's Tennis Earns Trip to NCAA Round of 16, Defeats Washington State 6-0
Senior Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) capped an outstanding home career by leading the second-seeded University of Florida women’s tennis team to a 6-0 victory against Washington State in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships held at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex on Saturday.
Florida will face Michigan (21-7) in the NCAA Round of 16 on Thursday, May 17 in Athens, Ga., beginning at 7 p.m. ET. The 15th-ranked Wolverines defeated Texas A&M, 4-3, in their second round match. Florida is 2-0 all-time against Michigan, taking the 5-2 decision on Feb. 12, 2010 in the ITA National Team Indoor Round of 16 and the 5-0 victory on May 15, 1997, in the NCAA Round of 16.
The Gators improved to 13-1 all-time in NCAA Round of 32 matches and will be making their 29th overall appearance in the Round of 16, including their eighth straight trip.
Mather, who has helped Florida to a 54-0 record at home during her four-year career, earned wins on the doubles and singles courts Saturday, as she provided the first singles victory with a 6-3, 6-2 decision against Andjela Kankaras and earn her 16th consecutive win. Mather’s first set was on-serve through five games before the Gator senior earned a break and took a 4-2 lead. She broke again in the eighth game and served out for the first frame, carrying that momentum into the second set where she jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Kankaras held on her next two services games, as did Mather, who earned one last break in the seventh game before serving out to take the win in her final home match.
Sophomore Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) continued her impressive play showing in NCAA team singles matches, as she improved to 6-0 all-time in NCAA dual match singles action after her 6-0 6-2 victory against Charlotte Koning that gave Florida a 3-0 lead . Cercone won the first eight games of the match before Koning held to break up the bagel. The Gator sophomore earned another break in the fifth game that was the first of three straight breaks in the set, as Cercone ended the trend by serving out for the victory.
The matches on courts one, two and four all were playing match point at the same time and the Gators won that final point on all three to claim the 6-0 decision.
Sophomore Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) polished off her 6-4, 6-0 win on court four against Elizavete Luzina, just moments before junior Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) downed Liudimila Vasilieva 6-3, 6-1 and junior Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) defeated Elisabeth Fournier, 6-2, 6-3.
Oyen found herself trailing midway through the first set against Luzina, who earned a break in the fifth game and Oyen wasn’t able to square the match until breaking in the eighth game and holding for a 5-4 lead. She then broke Luzina at love to take the set and won the first four points on her serve to take a 1-0 lead in the second as she seemed to assume the momentum for the rest of the match en route to the win. Oyen improved to 20-1 in dual matches this year and collected her 49th career singles win.
Will was in an early hole on court one, where Vasilieva opened with a break and held a love to take a quick 2-0 lead. Will was able to get the set back on-serve with a break in the sixth game and then held, before winning the next two games to take the frame. She rode that into the second set, where she jumped out to a 4-0 lead, before Vasilieva was able to hold serve and avoid the bagel, as Will won the final two games and earn her ninth consecutive victory and improve to 22-1 overall year, including 17-1 in dual match action.
Embree opened with a 4-0 lead against Fournier, holding at love on her first trip to the baseline. She held serve throughout that first frame and won it 6-2. The two traded breaks early in the second set, which was on-serve until Embree broke Fournier in the seventh game and held for a 5-3 lead. The Gator All-American then earned one last break, losing just one point on Fournier’s serve to earn her 15th straight win.
UF sophomore Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) led Olga Musilovich, 7-5, 5-1, when the Gators clinched the dual match and play was halted.
The Gators came out strong again on the doubles court, where their top two teams dominated 8-1 and 8-2 and captured the doubles point for the important 1-0 lead.
Florida’s top-ranked tandem of Sofie Oyen and Allie Will raced out to a 7-0 lead before Ksenia Googe and Andjela Kankaras were able to hold and prevent the shutout, before Will used her powerful serve to close out the first individual decision of the dual match in 37 minutes.
Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather continued their impressive run together, as they polished off Liudmila Vasilieva and Elizaveta Luzina to clinch the doubles point and win their 22nd consecutive match, a run tied for the fourth longest in program history. Embree and Mather improved to 25-2 overall this year, including 22-0 in dual match play and 51-7 all-time in their career together.
Florida Head Coach Roland Thornqvist
On today’s win…
“It was slightly difficult to play with the swirling wind but the first sets I thought we were feeling our way around the courts maybe a little bit in singles. Doubles, I was very pleased with. Number one doubles was the best I’ve seen them poach, cross all year long. It was the best footwork forward all year long. I’m very happy with that. After the first sets in singles I thought we loosened up a little bit made some good decisions. It’s really interesting to see and be a part of a team that is so driven to win and has the desire like these guys. It’s remarkable to see how they prepare. Before the match, with these guys, you don’t have to do much. We roll out the balls and give them water and they take care of everything themselves. It’s a really unique group. A lot of that stems from that incredible desire to win. I feel just blessed to be a part of it.
On playing in the postseason…
“We train hard the whole time. The journey to here is very important. As the defending champion, it would have been easy to forget what you have to do and just solely focus on this week which would have been the absolute wrong approach. I think we were on that path a little bit in January and the beginning of February but since then we’ve been really disciplined in practice with great attitudes, a blue collar attitude. Now we really hope that we reap the benefits of all the hard work. I think we’ve instilled a belief in the players that we can win multiple ways. So we can win on days, for example, when we’re not playing on the top of our games, we can find ways to win, we can play our way to win and not necessarily hit our way to win. You want as many arrows in the quiver as you possibly can have when you enter an all or nothing tournament like this.”
On having a bullseye on their backs all season…
“I think that helps. We feel a little bit of that every year, particularly in the SEC because we have had some success and teams do what to beat the Gators. I think it’s like that in virtually every sport on campus. It takes a special player to handle that. The underdogs and the ones who thrive at being the underdogs generally don’t do well here. You have to manage yourself as a favorite if you want to be playing or coaching at Florida. I think our players have done a good job of that."
On versatility of the lineup…
“Well it’s a great tool for me, clearly. However, the other side of that coin is sometimes it can be dodgy for the player, in particular the ones who have been at six and seven. They don’t know if they’re going to play then the next day they don’t. I understand that but at the same time we’ve got seven players who we have faith in and we’re going to use all seven when applicable. And now, especially when it’s hot and we played back-to-back days, I think it’s very reasonable to assume we’re going to use every player and that we count on every player. If you ask any of our athletes here, they’ll tell you the same thing. We can get four points at any spot and that’s a great luxury and great feeling when you step on the court.”
Florida Junior Lauren Embree
On how things were at the end with three courts all having match-clinching points at the same time…
“I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. I thought that anyone could have clinched it at that moment. I was just trying to stay focused in my game because I really wanted to finish. When she served that last ball, I was praying that I won that point to finish the match with everybody else.”
On if it’s hard not to notice that going on and watch the scores…
“We try not to scoreboard watch. We try and stay focused on our match because if you scoreboard watch things can go wrong and backfire on you in two seconds but in moments like that, where we all have a match point, we obviously all want to win that point and luckily we all did.”
On what drives this team…
“I think we’re all individually competitive and I think that helps us as a team also because we all just want to win, not only for ourselves, but for each other. I think winning last year really motivated us to try and do that again. I think that’s what’s keeping us really focused.”
On if there is any worry about looking past the Round of 16…
“Right now we’re really focused on Michigan and we know that they’re a great team. We played them at indoors my freshman year and they gave us a run so it’s going to be tough. Every match will be tough so we’re just focused on that right now.”
Florida Senior Joanna Mather
On how it feels to get to the Round of 16…
“It feels really good. This is what we’ve been training for the whole year. It feels good to come out and get to play more matches. We’re excited to go back to Athens and hopefully keep going.”
On her play…
“It feels great. Now I can say that I don’t know what it feels like to lose at home. That’s good. I feel like I’m playing really well and I think we’re all playing very well. We’ve been training hard and hopefully I can take this play into the next rounds.”
On if there was any extra emotion…
“Yeah there was. I teard up a little bit, but I think the fact that we’re not done yet I’m still kind of holding off on the emotions.”
On if it’s extra special to be going to Athens which is 50 minutes from her home in Duluth …
“It is. My whole family will be out there because everyone lives very close. Not that Athens is home to me but it kind of is since it’s close to my house and we’ve been there so many times.”
Florida Junior Allie Will
On her match today…
“I thought the girl played really well. She played a lot of defense in the beginning and made me hit a lot of balls but I think I took a second and realized that I’d need to grind a little bit more today and I focused a little bit more on depth and moving the ball around. Once I started doing that I felt like I was hitting the ball a lot better and mentally I was thinking a little bit more clearly.”
On if the questionable calls got her going…
“I was a little bit surprised that she called the second one out after getting overruled on the first one but I think that probably helped me give myself a little bit more energy. I play a lot better when I’m more positive and I think I got a little bit more into it after that but I think it definitely motivated me a little bit more.”
Washington State Head Coach Lisa Hart
On the match against Florida…
“Give all the credit to Florida. I think they’re an outstanding team and they came out and played fantastic in doubles. We kind of got things going at three doubles early, which was good, but we couldn’t really get things going at one and two. Singles I thought we came out really well on a lot of the courts but we just couldn’t stay with it.”
On what makes Florida such a good team…
“I think obviously their number one is the number one player in the country for a reason. I think two through six they have so much depth and fantastic athletes. They’re obviously well conditioned. I don’t think that they were very tired today. Obviously Roland is a terrific coach. I think they’re very well coached and all of the credit goes to them. They’re a great team.”
On what she was most pleased with about her squad today…
“I thought we came out in singles and competed, especially at number one, early on. Then near the bottom of our lineup our four player and our six player really came out well, so that was good. Good first sets there gave us a chance to get some things going. I was proud of them for that, for sure.”
On advancing to the second round…
“It’s no fun to lose, obviously, but Florida has been a great host and it’s been a really good experience for our players. The win yesterday was really good for our program and I was proud of the way our players battled through the heat and won that match.”
NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships Second Round
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 31 Washington State
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex * Gainesville, Fla.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Final Score: Florida d. Washington State, 6-0
Doubles (order of finish: 1, 2)
1. Sofie Oyen/Allie Will (1), UF d. Ksenia Googe/Andjela Kankaras, WSU, 8-1
2. Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (22), UF d. Liudmila Vasilieva/Elizaveta Luzina, WSU, 8-2
3. Elisabeth Fournier/Charlotte Koning, WSU led Alexandra Cercone/Caroline Hitimana, UF, 4-3 DNF
Singles (order of finish: 3, 5, 4, 1, 2)
1. Alle Will (1), UF d. Liudmila Vasilieva (51), WSU, 6-3, 6-1
2. Lauren Embree (9), UF d. Elisabeth Fournier (108), WSU, 6-2, 6-3
3. Joanna Mather (21), UF d. Andjela Kankaras, WSU, 6-3, 6-2
4. Sofie Oyen (61), UF d. Elizaveta Luzina, WSU, 6-4, 6-0*
5. Alexandra Cercone (79), UF d. Charlotte Koning, WSU, 6-0, 6-2
6. Olivia Janowicz, UF led Olga Musilovich, WSU, 7-5, 5-1 DNF
Updated Records: Florida (23-1); South Carolina State (19-7)
NCAA Seeding: Florida – 2; Washington State 17-32;
ITA National Ranking: Florida – 2; Washington State – 31
*indicates clinching doubles/dual match point