The fourth-ranked University of Florida women’s tennis team earned a hard-fought 6-1 victory against 18th-ranked Clemson on Friday at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex, where the Gators extended their overall home winning streak to 111 matches.
“This Clemson team is really good, every bit as good as North Carolina and Duke,” said UF head coach Roland Thornqvist, whose Gator squad played both of those other ACC programs last weekend. “They gave us everything we could handle.”
Florida’s home streak is the longest active winning streak by any women’s team in any sport in NCAA Division I competition. Only the Ohio State men’s tennis team sports a longer active home win streak, as the Buckeyes carry a 156 home win streak into Saturday’s match against Notre Dame.
On Sunday, the Gator’s home win streak will be put to its toughest test in years as national rival Stanford makes its first regular-season visit to Gainesville since March 24, 1993, and challenges Florida beginning at 11 a.m.
Florida (5-1) won the doubles point and Clemson evened the team scoring when Liz Jeukeng defeated Sofie Oyen (Belgium), 6-2, 6-1, on court two.
The Gators then collected wins on the singles courts from Brianna Morgan, Danielle Collins, Alexandra Cercone, Olivia Janowicz and Lauren Embree to secure the team victory.
“I thought we were spectacular in singles because Clemson is really, really talented,” Thornqvist said. “We had to use our head and play smart, play good defense in some spots. I was really proud of how we came out playing in singles because this is a really good Clemson team.”
Freshman Brianna Morgan (Beverly Hills, Calif.) quickly put Florida back in the lead after she earned a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Romy Kolzer. There were five breaks in the first set and Morgan emerged with a 4-2 lead and held for a 5-2 advantage. She then broke again to win the first set and carried that momentum into the second where she won the first three games before Kolzer finally held. The two competitors traded breaks in the sixth and seventh games before Morgan captured one final break to close out the match and improve to 5-0 in dual match action while giving Florida the 2-1 advantage.
Fellow Gator rookie Danielle Collins (St. Petersburg, Fla.) then gave Florida a 3-1 lead with her 6-1, 6-4 win versus Ani Miao on court five. Collins enjoyed a quick first set before Miao began to fight back, taking a 2-0 to start the second. Collins then broke and got the frame back on-serve after holding and the set remained a battle until Collins finally broke again in the ninth game and served out for the one hour and 26-minute victory.
“I told Danielle after the match that sometimes first-year students have a tough time changing momentum,” said Thornqvist about the freshman, who had dropped her last two singles matches entering Friday. “Sometimes when the snowball is rolling the wrong way, they have a tough time changing the momentum. She lost her doubles match today, but she did her job on the singles court today. She was steady, hit the corners when she had to and played defense when she needed to.”
Junior Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) provided the clinching victory as she earned a hard-fought 7-6 (4), 6-4 decision that lasted two hours and two minutes against Beatirce Gumulya on court three. The win against No. 57th-ranked Tiger was the highest-ranked foe Cercone has defeated this season and she needed to fight back for the victory. After the pair traded breaks to begin the match, the next three games were on-serve until Gumulya earned a break in the sixth game that sparked a run five consecutive before Cercone held in the 10th game and earned a break for the 6-5 lead. Gumulya, however, broke right back and forced a tiebreak that was just as tight as the set itself. With Cercone finishing up two serves with a 4-3 lead, she won both of Gumulya’s next two serves for the 6-3 lead and closed out the first set two points later.
Three of the first four games in the second set were breaks and it was Cercone who came out on top and held for the 4-1 lead. Both held on their next two service games and Cercone had five match-points in Gumulya’s serve in the eighth game, but the Tiger fought each of them off before finally holding and forcing Cercone to serve out for the win. Gumulya was able to break Cercone and went to the baseline serving down, 5-4, and trying to get the set back on-serve, but Cercone jumped out to double-match point and earned the victory on her sixth overall match point of the evening as she won her seventh consecutive dual match singles contest.
“This is the most confidence I’ve ever had in Alex,” Thornqvist shared. “Even in matches when she’s not striking the ball as well as she wants to, she still finds a way to put it where it needs to be and finds a way to close out sets. That tells you what kind of quality player and competitor she is.”
The two remaining matches on court continued to play out and Gator junior Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) defeated Tirsten Dewar, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in two hours and nine minutes and improved to 20-5 overall this season.
Senior Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) staged one of her patented three-set rallies, as she was trailing 5-3 in the third set against Yana Koroleva and battled back for the 6-1, 1-6, 7-6 (2) win that lasted two hours and 25 minutes to extend her dual match singles win streak to 22.
“Yana was spectacular today,” Thornqvist said. “That was big time tennis. In the third set, we had to make sure we had good depth because Yana likes to change direction of the ball and we needed to make sure that when she did it, she was behind the baseline. Once Lauren calmed down and started to do a better job of that, she got some better looks and chances for breaks. It was a fabulous match.”
The doubles matches on courts one and two finished at nearly the same moment, with Clemson’s Beatrice Gumulya and Tirsten Dewar completing their 8-4 win on court two against Danielle Collins and Olivia Janowicz just one shot before Florida’s Lauren Embree and Sofie Oyen knocked off Yana Koroleva and Romy Kolzer, 8-4, leaving court three to decide the important doubles point.
As both of those matches came to an end, Florida’s Alexandra Cercone and Brianna Morgan were receiving with a 7-4 lead against Ani Miao and Liz Jeukeng. Game 12 featured three match-points for the Gators and six game points for the Tigers, who held serve after 21 minutes and forced Morgan to serve for the match. The Gators needed to fight off one break point before finally capturing the 8-5 win in one hour and 21 minutes and the doubles point for the 1-0 lead in the team scoring.
“We did not do a very good job body-language wise in doubles; somehow we won the doubles point anyway,” Thornqvist said. “That’s something we addressed in the locker room between doubles and singles. We have to do a much better job and have much more life to us in doubles. We’re actually pretty good in playing, but we’re not helping our own momentum right now. If we have a big crowd on Sunday, I’m hoping that we can do a better job of using them than we did today.”
Clemson (3-3) plays Stanford on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Gainesville.
Florida returns to the court and plays host to No. 13 Stanford on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex, where admission to all regular-season matches is free.
The USTA’s debut of “College MatchDay” will be in Gainesville for Sunday’s match.
The College MatchDay series will highlight a number of premier men’s and women’s college tennis team matches each season, organizing activities and local outreach surrounding the host team’s campus. Additionally, Ken Thomas will broadcast each College MatchDay on RadioTennis.com.
The USTA is giving out hats to the first 200 kids in attendance, while the UAA will be providing free “BEAT STANFORD” t-shirts to the first 500 fans. Prior to the match, kids can participate in the Kid’s Korner for poster making, coloring, meet Alberta and receive Gator head tattoos from the Dazzlers. There also will be a post-match meet and greet with the Gator team.
No. 18 Clemson at No. 4 Florida
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex
Friday, February 22, 2013
Final Score: Florida 6, Clemson 1
Doubles (order of finish: 2, 1, 3*)
1. Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, UF d. Yana Koroleva/Romy Kolzer, CU, 8-4
2. Beatrice Gumulya/Tirsten Dewar, CU d. Danielle Collins/Olivia Janowicz, UF, 8-4
3. Alexandra Cercone/Brianna Morgan, UF d. Ani Miao/Liz Jeukeng, CU, 8-5*
Singles (order of finish: 2, 4, 5, 3*, 6, 1)
1. Lauren Embree (4), UF d. Yana Koroleva (26), CU 6-1, 1-6, 7-6 (2)
2. Liz Jeukeng, CU d. Sofie Oyen (9), UF, 6-2, 6-1
3. Alexandra Cercone (116), UF d. Beatirce Gumulya (57), CU, 7-6 (4), 6-4*
4. Brianna Morgan, UF d. Romy Kolzer, CU, 6-2, 6-2
5. Danielle Collins (44), UF d. Ani Miao, CU, 6-1, 6-4
6. Olivia Janowicz, UF d. Tirsten Dewar, CU, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
*indicates clinching doubles point/dual match win
Records: Florida 5-1; Clemson 3-3
For all of the latest information on Florida women’s tennis:
Official Website: http://www.gatorzone.com/tennis/women/
Twitter: @GatorZoneTennis and @GatorZoneNews